To those of you that are interested in trading on margin if you are just beginning to day trade or invest, my first piece of advice would be do not use margin!! If you have practiced your strategy paper trading stocks and you are happy with your results then use your own money to trade with and if you are still comfortable with your results, try a couple trades using a little margin. I only use margin for short term trading.
Margin trading is a high-risk strategy that can give you a huge profit if executed correctly, the flip side of that is that you can have huge losses. One of the only things riskier that investing on margin is doing it without understanding what your doing and what the consequences could be!
Buying or trading on margin means that you are borrowing money from your broker to purchase stock. You are using leverage. It’s a loan that allows you to buy more stock than you would be able to normally. To trade on margin you need a margin account, which is different than just a cash account in which, you trade using money that you have deposited. There is an initial investment required to open a margin account and each brokerage house is different. Once you have your margin account open, you can borrow up to 50% of the stock purchase price, it’s important to know that you do not have to margin up to 50% you can do less 10% or 20%, I personally would not recommend to margin up to 50%!!
You can keep your loan as long as you want, but remember you borrowed money and no one gives a loan for free. You have to pay interest on that loan. The stocks held in your account are collateral for your loan. When you sell a stock in a margin account the proceeds go to the broker for repayment of the loan until it is paid in full.
Buying on margin should be used as a short term strategy. The longer you hold a margined investment, the greater the return that is needed to make a profit or even break even. The longer you hold a margined investment, odds are you will not make a profit.
Not all stocks can be bought on margin. Brokers will not allow the purchase of penny stocks, over the counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) securities or Initial public offerings (IPOs) to be purchased on margin because of the high volatility and risk associated with these types of stocks.
You have two different types of margin restrictions on your account. One is the initial margin, which is the amount you can borrow. The next is the maintenance margin, which is the amount you need to maintain after you trade. These amounts are set by the Federal Reserve Board. Minimum initial margin is 50% and maintenance margin of 25%, some brokerages can have stricter limits.
If the equity (which is the value of the securities you hold minus what you owe the brokerage) falls below the maintenance margin, the brokerage will issue a margin call. If you are issued a margin call you will need to deposit cash into the account or liquidate your stock positions to cover the call.
For example you purchased $20,000 worth of stock by borrowing $10,000 from your broker and paying $10,000 yourself. The value of your stock drops to $12,000, so the equity in your account falls to $2,000 (12,000 -10,000 = 2,000) 25% of 12,000 = 3,000. You would be issued a margin call for 1,000, which is the difference between the equity in your account and the 25% maintenance’s margin on the value of your 12,000 worth of stock.
If you do not take care of the margin call by depositing money or selling stock, the brokerage has the right to sell securities (stock) to increase your account equity until you are above the maintenance margin. Under most margin agreements, a firm can sell your securities without waiting for you to meet the margin call, and they don’t need to consult you before doing it!