A:

The concept of leverage is used by both investors and companies. Investors use leverage to significantly increase the returns that can be provided on an investment. They lever their investments by using various instruments that include options, futures and margin accounts. Companies can use leverage to finance their assets. In other words, instead of issuing stock to raise capital, companies can use debt financing to invest in business operations in an attempt to increase shareholder value. (For more insight, see What do people mean when they say that debt is a relatively cheaper form of finance than equity?)

In forex, investors use leverage to profit from the fluctuations in exchange rates between two different countries. The leverage that is achievable in the forex market is one of the highest that investors can obtain. Leverage is a loan that is provided to an investor by the broker that is handling his or her forex account. When an investor decides to invest in the forex market, he or she must first open up a margin account with a broker. Usually, the amount of leverage provided is either 50:1, 100:1 or 200:1, depending on the broker and the size of the position the investor is trading. Standard trading is done on 100,000 units of currency, so for a trade of this size, the leverage provided is usually 50:1 or 100:1. Leverage of 200:1 is usually used for positions of $50,000 or less.

To trade $100,000 of currency, with a margin of 1%, an investor will only have to deposit $1,000 into his or her margin account. The leverage provided on a trade like this is 100:1. Leverage of this size is significantly larger than the 2:1 leverage commonly provided on equities and the 15:1 leverage provided by the futures market. Although 100:1 leverage may seem extremely risky, the risk is significantly less when you consider that currency prices usually change by less than 1% during intraday trading. If currencies fluctuated as much as equities, brokers would not be able to provide as much leverage.

Although the ability to earn significant profits by using leverage is substantial, leverage can also work against investors. For example, if the currency underlying one of your trades moves in the opposite direction of what you believed would happen, leverage will greatly amplify the potential losses. To avoid such a catastrophe, forex traders usually implement a strict trading style that includes the use of stop and limit orders.

To learn more, see Getting Started In Forex, A Primer On The Forex Market and Getting Started In Foreign Exchange Futures.

RELATED FAQS
  1. What is a derivative?

    A derivative is a contract between two or more parties whose value is based on an agreed-upon underlying financial asset, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is after-hours trading? Am I able to trade at this time?

    After-hours trading (AHT) refers to the buying and selling of securities on major exchanges outside of specified regular ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Do hedge funds invest in commodities?

    There are several hedge funds that invest in commodities. Many hedge funds have broad macroeconomic strategies and invest ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can mutual funds use leverage?

    Traditionally, mutual funds have not been considered leveraged financial products. However, a number of new products have ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do hedge funds use leverage?

    Hedge funds use several forms of leverage to chase large returns. They purchase securities on margin, meaning they leverage ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Do nonprofit organizations have working capital?

    Nonprofit organizations continuously face debate over how much money they bring in that is kept in reserve. These financial ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Investing News

    Today's Sell-off: Are We in a Margin Liquidation?

    If we're in market liquidation, is it good news or bad news? That party depends on your timeframe.
  2. Retirement

    Roth IRAs Tutorial

    This comprehensive guide goes through what a Roth IRA is and how to set one up, contribute to it and withdraw from it.
  3. Options & Futures

    What Does Quadruple Witching Mean?

    In a financial context, quadruple witching refers to the day on which contracts for stock index futures, index options, and single stock futures expire.
  4. Options & Futures

    4 Equity Derivatives And How They Work

    Equity derivatives offer retail investors opportunities to benefit from an underlying security without owning the security itself.
  5. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Altria's Return on Equity (ROE) (MO)

    Learn about Altria Group's return on equity (ROE) and analyze net profit margin, asset turnover and financial leverage to determine what is causing its high ROE.
  6. Options & Futures

    Five Advantages of Futures Over Options

    Futures have a number of advantages over options such as fixed upfront trading costs, lack of time decay and liquidity.
  7. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Boeing’s Return on Equity (ROE) (BA)

    Learn about Boeing's return on equity and find out how the company's ROE compares to its own historical performance and aerospace industry peers.
  8. Economics

    Understanding the History of Money

    Money has been a part of human history for at least 3,000 years, evolving from bartering to banknotes.
  9. Term

    What is Pegging?

    Pegging refers to the practice of fixing one country's currency to that of another country. It also describes a practice in which investors avoid purchasing security shares underlying a put option.
  10. Home & Auto

    Understanding Pre-Qualification Vs. Pre-Approval

    Contrary to popular belief, being pre-qualified for a mortgage doesn’t mean you’re pre-approved for a home loan.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Warrant

    A derivative that confers the right, but not the obligation, ...
  2. Purchasing Power Parity - PPP

    An economic theory that estimates the amount of adjustment needed ...
  3. Swap

    A derivative contract through which two parties exchange financial ...
  4. Bull Call Spread

    An options strategy that involves purchasing call options at ...
  5. Board Of Directors - B Of D

    A group of individuals that are elected as, or elected to act ...
  6. Currency

    Currency is a generally accepted form of money, including coins ...
Hot Definitions
  1. Harry Potter Stock Index

    A collection of stocks from companies related to the "Harry Potter" series franchise. Created by StockPickr, this index seeks ...
  2. Liquidation Margin

    Liquidation margin refers to the value of all of the equity positions in a margin account. If an investor or trader holds ...
  3. Black Swan

    An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult ...
  4. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  5. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
Trading Center