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What is Leverage in Forex?

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Regardless whether you are a brand new trader in the forex market or someone with extensive experience, you will have certainly encountered one thing on your journey. Leverage. If you are new to forex trading then you may wonder exactly what is meant by this, how you can utilize it, and what kind of leverage is available from your forex broker. Since every top forex broker around the world offers some kind of leverage, we will cover the main points of leveraged trading here. This should help you make the best decision for your trading future when selecting your next broker.

Basics of Leverage in Forex Trading

In its most simplistic form, leverage is simply money borrowed from a source that can increase the size of position or amount of capital that is available to you. In this case, the source that you are borrowing money from in the form of leverage, is your broker.

The amount of leverage that you can benefit from will depend primarily on two factors:

  • Where your broker is based and regulated.
  • Which assets you want to apply leverage to from your broker.

These are two of the most important factors when looking at how much leverage may be available to you as a standard forex trader. Here we will take a closer look at how much leverage you can expect to receive.

Typical Amounts of Leverage Available

This varies around the world and between different brokers, but can go up to as much as 100:1 or more with certain brokers. Forex trading leverage is most commonly expressed in this ratio format and indicates in our example that with a $1 balance of your own funds, you could open positions worth as much as $100.

As mentioned, the leverage available will depend heavily on where the broker is regulated. The most prominent example of this is within the EU. Due to ESMA (European Securities and Markets Authority) regulations, all brokers are restricted to offering a maximum leverage of 30:1 regardless of the market traded. Effectively, this means that you can only borrow a maximum of 30 times your capital balance to trade with. The idea here is to protect traders from becoming excessively involved in leveraged trading where losses can mount quickly.

This is typically more than enough leverage and is usually only available within the major forex currency markets which are often viewed as less volatile. With a 30:1 leverage and a deposit of $100, you could hypothetically open positions to the value of $3,000.

In other markets such as minor forex currency pairs, CFDs, and cryptocurrency trading, the leverage available can be considerably lower anywhere from 1:1 (no leverage), through 5:1, 10:1, 20:1 depending on the risk of the market.

If you happen to be a more experienced trader, then of course the broker may be more likely to approve a higher leverage, and for traders who can open professional trading accounts, these limitations can be stretched further.

Benefits of Leverage in Forex Trading

The key benefit and reason why many traders employ leverage when they are trading forex is the potential profitability.

Forex trading is a huge volume trading market, the biggest in the world of trading. If you have looked at our recent article on forex lot size, then you will know that the typically standard lot size is 100,000 currency units. This can mean a cost of $100,000 to trade just one standard lot.

So, instead of putting a full $100,000 or more on the line, many forex traders will use leverage. Utilizing the maximum EU broker leverage of 30:1, you could then trade with up to $100,000.

This effectively means that through increasing your leverage, you can also increase your purchasing or trading power to take more advantage over changes in the market.

Risk management can also be a second area where, if well-considered, can definitely benefit from utilizing leverage in forex. As mentioned above, you will not want to risk your entire balance on just a few trades in the forex market, instead, you can use leverage to only commit a small percentage of your balance yet still fill the position.

Cost and Risks of Using Leverage

When you do decide to utilize the leverage on offer from your broker, besides the positive potential and benefits that we have mentioned, there are naturally some costs and risks involved.

Thinking of the costs first, your margin will go up depending upon both the size of the positions you open, and also how those positions move while they are open. Taking a look at our recent article on margin in forex trading will help you to gain a deeper understanding of how the margin works but it is certainly something to keep an eye on when using leverage.

The main risk when dealing with leverage is connected to the increased size of your positions. This means that when the market moves the size of your profits or losses can be greatly amplified. On the positive side, this of course can mean you make money quicker when the market moves in your favor. On the other hand though, you can also rack up quick losses.

Choosing the best forex broker who also provides negative balance protection, and employing an astute risk management plan that you stick by are two things you can do that will help you successfully manage your trading on leverage.

Final Thoughts – How Much Leverage Should I Use?

So, you have opened your forex trading account and been approved for leverage from your broker. The common temptation is to use as much as possible. In reality though, you need to do an impartial assessment of your position and not engage more in leverage than you can afford to lose. Particularly if you are a new trader, the recommendation would be to start small with the leverage and continue learning as much as possible through any educational content provided to help improve your knowledge and skill as a trader.

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Anthony is a financial journalist and business advisor with several years’ experience writing for some of the most well-known sites in the Forex world. A keen trader turned industry writer, he is currently based in Shanghai with a finger on the pulse of Asia’s biggest markets.