1. Margin Trading: Introduction
  2. Margin Trading: What Is Buying On Margin?
  3. Margin Trading: The Dreaded Margin Call
  4. Margin Trading: The Advantages
  5. Margin Trading: The Risks
  6. Margin Trading: Conclusion

In the previous section, we discussed the two restrictions imposed on the amount you can borrow. First, the initial margin, which is the initial amount you can borrow. Second, the maintenance margin, which is the amount you need to maintain after you trade. These amounts are set by the Federal Reserve Board, as well as your brokerage. Individual brokerages can have stricter limits, but the Federal Reserve Board sets a minimum initial margin of 50% and a maintenance margin of at least 25%.

Our focus in this section is the maintenance margin. In volatile markets, prices can fall very quickly. If the equity (value of securities minus what you owe the brokerage) in your account falls below the maintenance margin, the brokerage will issue a "margin call". A margin call forces the investor to either liquidate his/her position in the stock or add more cash to the account.

Here's how it works. Let's say you purchase $20,000 worth of securities by borrowing $10,000 from your brokerage and paying $10,000 yourself. If the market value of the securities drops to $15,000, the equity in your account falls to $5,000 ($15,000 - $10,000 = $5,000). Assuming a maintenance requirement of 25%, you must have $3,750 in equity in your account (25% of $15,000 = $3,750). Thus, you're fine in this situation as the $5,000 worth of equity in your account is greater than the maintenance margin of $3,750. But let's assume the maintenance requirement of your brokerage is 40% instead of 25%. In this case, your equity of $5,000 is less than the maintenance margin of $6,000 (40% of $15,000 = $6,000). As a result, the brokerage may issue you a margin call.

If for any reason you do not meet a margin call, the brokerage has the right to sell your securities to increase your account equity until you are above the maintenance margin. Even scarier is the fact that your broker may not be required to consult you before selling! Under most margin agreements, a firm can sell your securities without waiting for you to meet the margin call. You can't even control which stock is sold to cover the margin call.

Because of this, it is imperative that you read your brokerage's margin agreement very carefully before investing. This agreement explains the terms and conditions of the margin account, including: how interest is calculated, your responsibilities for repaying the loan and how the securities you purchase serve as collateral for the loan.


Margin Trading: The Advantages
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Buying on Margin

    When an investor buys on margin, he or she pays a portion of the stock price – called the margin -- and borrows the rest from a stockbroker. The purchased stocks then serve as collateral for ...
  2. Financial Advisor

    Margin Investing Gets A Bad Rap, But For The Thrill-Seeker, It's Worth It

    Investing on margin can be profitable but it's a risky play that needs care.
  3. Financial Advisor

    Understanding the Maintenance Margin

    A maintenance margin is the minimum amount of equity that must be kept in a margin account.
  4. Investing

    Explaining Initial Margin

    Initial margin is the percentage of a stock’s price an investor must have in his account to buy that stock on margin.
  5. Trading

    Introduction to Margin Accounts

    Find out what your broker is doing with your securities when you invest on margin.
  6. Managing Wealth

    What’s a Good Profit Margin for a New Business?

    Surprisingly, the younger your company is, the better its numbers may look.
  7. Trading

    A Guide To Day Trading On Margin

    Buying on margin is a good option if you don't have the cash to day trade.
  8. Trading

    Margin Trading

    Find out what margin is, how margin calls work, the advantages of leverage and why using margin can be risky.
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Who are Whole Foods' (WFM) main competitors?

    Learn more about Whole Foods Markets, who insists its products are sustainable. Thanks to the competition, however, its marketing ...
  2. What are the Differences Between Ex Works (EXW) and Free On Board (FOB)?

    Learn about Ex Works and Free on Board, the main difference between these Incoterms, and the responsibilities of buyers and ...
  3. What are Common Examples of Monopolistic Markets?

    Discover what causes real instances of market monopoly, how it persists and where monopoly privilege is most common in the ...
  4. What is the gold standard?

    The gold standard is a monetary system where a country's currency or paper money has a value directly linked to gold, but ...
Trading Center