Define leverage – Leveraging your trading and investments

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Define leverage – Leveraging your trading

Risks and Benefits Of Leverage

by Gino D’Alessio

Leverage is something we hear a lot about but very few traders take the time to fully understand its usefulness, or risk. It is an immensely powerful trading tool, which magnifies both risk and reward. The definition for trading leverage is;

The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.

Crucially, it can mean investors can lose more than their initial deposit.

Here, we explain that definition more fully;

What exactly is Leverage?

Leverage is the concept of borrowing money to add to your own capital to make a bigger investment. It started with the stock markets and was called margin investing. What happens in the stock market is you place for example, £10,000 with your stock broker and they lend you (or give you the ability to invest) another £10,000. This allows you to invest a total of £20,000, for your initial deposit of £10,000 – which sounds very attractive. So if you have picked the right stocks and the value of your portfolio goes up 10%, you are in a position to make £2,000. That is 10% of your total investment amount of £20,000. Effectively this borrowed money allowed you to make 20% on your initial capital of £10,000. This loan from your broker does come with a small cost, as they are often going to charge you more commission as you are investing with more money. There may also be interest charged on the loaned amount, or charges for keeping positions overnight. At present, with very low interest rates, those fees are minimal, but they are worth being aware of

Increased risk of leveraging trades;

We just saw the effects of an investment using leverage that went well, but let’s look at the possibility of a bad trade. In the above example if the stocks you picked went down 10% you would now lose £2,000 which this time is a loss of 20% on your initial capital. So the risk is amplified, just as the rewards are.

It’s easy to see how using leverage has great benefits when you get it right but it may also punish you just as much if you get it wrong. Our example followed a simple 2:1 level of leverage. Effectively doubling the initial investment. But leverage can be considerably higher than that, possibly as high as 100:1 or greater.

Leveraging Forex trading

In the FX markets leverage works the same way. Here is an example; You place your money with a broker and open an account with £5,000. The broker allows you to trade multiples of that figure. If he allows you to trade £25,000 then the leverage you are using is 5 times your initial capital and is called 5 to 1 leverage. You will often see it written as 5:1 which means that for every £1 you place in your account you will be able to trade on £5. Most FX traders will look to make day trades or trades that last a short period of time and take a small percentage profit in terms of price movement. This is feasible precisely because of the leverage being used. You may only need to be in an FX trade for 20 or 30 pips (price points) before you take your profit. 30 pips in GBP/USD (known as Cable) is less than 0.20% in terms of overall price movement. That is an incredibly small move – but if you are using 10:1 leverage you now have a percentage move of 2% compared to your initial capital.

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The return including leverage is known as the Return on Assets (ROA). Assets in this case, equal the actual size you trade in. For the example above it was £25,000 and the return was 0.20%. The return on your initial capital is known as the Return on Equity (ROE), and the equity in the above example was £5,000.

So to find out the return on the initial capital we can use these simple formulas;

How much leverage?

Most FX brokers offer significant levels of leverage. It is quite common to see leverage of 200 to 1 but some brokers advertise leverage of 1000:1

How much leverage you want to use really depends on your trading style. Style in this sense has a lot to do with how long you keep your positions open. The longer you keep your position open the higher the level of risk you are taking. This is simply because there are more chances of the FX pair moving further away from its current price. If you hold a position for a few minutes you will usually not see the price move very far from the open price of the position. Of course that is not the case if you open a position just before data releases.

You need to consider how long your average trade is going to be live. Is your trading strategy going to keep you in a trade overnight? Or even over multiple days? If so, then you may need to consider lower levels of leverage. Cable can move 2% fairly easily within a few days. If your trading strategy is going to have you with open positions over that time frame a 10:1 leverage could see you lose 20% of your initial capital.
If you’re trading style indicates that your positions remain open a matter of minutes then you are generally going to see the market move within a 30 pip range. In the case of cable that represents approximately a 0.20% move but multiplied by a leverage of 10:1 would mean a 2% move. In this case 10:1 doesn’t seem to be too excessive. There will of course be larger moves – even in just a few minutes – so traders must judge their own risk appetite. Obviously using 200:1 leverage can have disastrous effects. A move of 30 pips could change your account balance by 40%, it would feel extremely gratifying if you’re in profit, but a 40% loss could be catastrophic.

How leverage can accelerate growth.

A profitable trade of 2% is an excellent achievement. The compound effect can accelerate growth even further. Assume you can place 1 trade a day and make a profit of 2% from 30 pips. Thanks to leverage, in 20 trading days you could have added 40% to your account. In terms of annual growth, it represents a 480% return. If such growth allowed you to increase the initial equity, trading volume could be accelerated even more quickly. The same level of leverage however, could erode equity just as quickly.

How to Use your leverage

Leverage has to be considered as part of your risk management rules. You also need to consider how you split your use of leverage up. In our example above, we demonstrated using £25,000 leverage on £5,000 of initial equity. That leverage however, can be split over multiple trades. So five trades could be placed with a value of £5,000 each for example. These could be used across multiple assets or currency pairs – or alternatively, used on the same asset, but at different entry points. Placing just one trade and maxing out any leverage is the same as putting all your eggs in one basket.

So leverage is a means by which investors can maximise the returns on their capital. But the increase in potential reward comes with an increase in risk too, and it is important for traders to know exactly how much financial exposure they have at any one time – including the leverage.


What Is Leverage?

Leverage results from using borrowed capital as a funding source when investing to expand the firm’s asset base and generate returns on risk capital. Leverage is an investment strategy of using borrowed money—specifically, the use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital—to increase the potential return of an investment. Leverage can also refer to the amount of debt a firm uses to finance assets. When one refers to a company, property or investment as “highly leveraged,” it means that item has more debt than equity.

Leverage amplifies possible returns, just like a lever can be used to amplify one’s strength when moving a heavy weight.


How Leverage Works

Leverage is the use of debt (borrowed capital) in order to undertake an investment or project. The result is to multiply the potential returns from a project. At the same time, leverage will also multiply the potential downside risk in case the investment does not pan out.

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.

Investors who are not comfortable using leverage directly have a variety of ways to access leverage indirectly. They can invest in companies that use leverage in the normal course of their business to finance or expand operations—without increasing their outlay.

Key Takeaways

  • Leverage refers to the use of debt (borrowed funds) to amplify returns from an investment or project.
  • Investors use leverage to multiply their buying power in the market.
  • Companies use leverage to finance their assets: instead of issuing stock to raise capital, companies can use debt to invest in business operations in an attempt to increase shareholder value.

The Difference Between Leverage and Margin

Although interconnected—since both involve borrowing—leverage and margin are not the same. Leverage refers to taking on debt, while margin is debt or borrowed money a firm uses to invest in other financial instruments. A margin account allows you to borrow money from a broker for a fixed interest rate to purchase securities, options or futures contracts in the anticipation of receiving substantially high returns.

You can use margin to create leverage.

Example of Leverage

A company formed with an investment of $5 million from investors, the equity in the company is $5 million; this is the money the company can use to operate. If the company uses debt financing by borrowing $20 million, it now has $25 million to invest in business operations and more opportunity to increase value for shareholders. An automaker, for example, could borrow money to build a new factory. The new factory would enable the automaker to increase the number of cars it produces and increase profits.

Special Considerations

Leverage Formulas

Through balance sheet analysis, investors can study the debt and equity on the books of various firms and can invest in companies that put leverage to work on behalf of their businesses. Statistics such as return on equity, debt to equity and return on capital employed help investors determine how companies deploy capital and how much of that capital companies have borrowed. To properly evaluate these statistics, it is important to keep in mind that leverage comes in several varieties, including operating, financial, and combined leverage.

Fundamental analysis uses the degree of operating leverage. One can calculate the degree of operating leverage by dividing the percentage change of a company’s earnings per share by its percentage change in its earnings before interest and taxes over a period. Similarly, one could calculate the degree of operating leverage by dividing a company’s EBIT by its EBIT less its interest expense. A higher degree of operating leverage shows a higher level of volatility in a company’s EPS.

DuPont analysis uses the “equity multiplier” to measure financial leverage. One can calculate the equity multiplier by dividing a firm’s total assets by its total equity. Once figured, one multiplies the financial leverage with the total asset turnover and the profit margin to produce the return on equity. For example, if a publicly traded company has total assets valued at $500 million and shareholder equity valued at $250 million, then the equity multiplier is 2.0 ($500 million / $250 million). This shows the company has financed half its total assets by equity. Hence, larger equity multipliers suggest more financial leverage.

If reading spreadsheets and conducting fundamental analysis is not your cup of tea, you can purchase mutual funds or exchange-traded funds that use leverage. By using these vehicles, you can delegate the research and investment decisions to experts.

The Disadvantages of Leverage

Leverage is a multi-faceted, complex tool. The theory sounds great, and in reality, the use of leverage can be profitable, but the reverse is also true. Leverage magnifies both gains and losses. If an investor uses leverage to make an investment and the investment moves against the investor, his or her loss is much greater than it would’ve been if he or she had not leveraged the investment.

In the business world, a company can use leverage to generate shareholder wealth, but if it fails to do so, the interest expense and credit risk of default destroy shareholder value.

How Leverage Works in the Forex Market

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.

Using Leverage in Forex

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 activated through a loan that is provided to an investor by the broker that is handling the investor’s or trader’s forex account.

When a trader decides to trade in the forex market, he or she must first open a margin account with a forex 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 that the investor is trading. What does this mean? A 50:1 leverage ratio means that the minimum margin requirement for the trader is 1/50 = 2%. A 100:1 ratio means that the trader is required to have at least 1/100 = 1% of the total value of trade available as cash in the trading account, and so on. 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 her or his 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 in 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 (trading within one day). If currencies fluctuated as much as equities, brokers would not be able to provide as much leverage.

How Leverage Can Backfire

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 a catastrophe, forex traders usually implement a strict trading style that includes the use of stop orders and limit orders designed to control potential losses.

Кредитное плечо

Что такое кредитное плечо?

Это использование заемных денег для наращивания инвестиций с малым объемом вложенных средств, чтобы занять на рынке более серьезную позицию по активам любого рода. Инвесторы используют кредитное плечо, пытаясь увеличить свою прибыль. В случае успеха итоговая прибыль за вычетом вашей собственности может намного превысить изначальный капитал. При неудаче столь же велики окажутся и ваши потери.

Где вы могли слышать о кредитном плече?

Кредитное плечо интегрировано в некоторые финансовые продукты, включая опционы и другие деривативы. Контракты на разницу цен (CFD) хорошо подходят для торговли с кредитным плечом. Другое определение кредитного плеча касается отношения долгов компании к собственному акционерному капиталу.

Что следует знать о кредитном плече

Кредитное плечо — это инвестиционная модель, предполагающая, что инвестор должен вложить лишь часть общей суммы, необходимой для занятия желаемой позиции. Остаток предоставляется в долг источником кредитного плеча. Размер собственной малой суммы (называемый маржевым взносом) может быть различным и зависит от типов выбранных вами для торговли активов и рынков. На глубоком, ликвидном и относительно спокойном рынке потребуется меньшая маржа (например, 5 % или 7 % стоимости позиции), тогда как высокая волатильность увеличит необходимый размер маржевого взноса до 10 % и более.

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Reading time: 13 minutes

If you are a rookie trader, you may find yourself asking questions such as ‘what is leverage in Forex trading?’ and ‘how can it be useful?’ This article will provide you with answers to these types of questions, together with, a detailed overview of Forex leveraging, its advantages and disadvantages, and a list of possible applications and restrictions.

What is Leverage?

In general, leverage enables you to influence your environment in a way that multiplies the outcome of your efforts without increasing your resources.

In the world of trading, it means you can access a larger portion of the market with a smaller deposit than you would be able to via traditional investing. This gives you the advantage of getting greater returns for a small up-front investment, though it is important to note that traders can be at risk of higher losses when using leverage. In finance, it is when you borrow money, to invest and make more money due to your increased buying power. Once you return what you borrowed, you are still left with more money than if you had just invested your own capital.

Let’s look at it in more detail for the finance, Forex, and trading world.

What is Financial Leverage?

Leverage in finance pertains to the use of debt to buy assets. This is done in order to avoid using too much equity. The ratio of this debt to equity is the formula for leverage (debt/equity ratio) whereby the greater the proportion of debt, the higher the amount of leverage. If a company, investment or property is termed as “highly leveraged” it means that it has a greater proportion of debt than equity. When leveraged debt is used in such a way that the return generated is greater than the interest associated with it, then an investor is in a favourable position.

However, an excessive amount of economic leverage it is always risky, given that it is always possible to fail to repay it.

(Note that the leverage shown in Trades 2 and 3 is available for Professional clients only. A Professional client is a client who possesses the experience, knowledge and expertise to make their own investment decisions and properly assess the risks that these incur. In order to be considered to be Professional client, the client must comply with MiFID ll 2020/65/EU Annex ll requirements.)

Financial leverage is quite different from operating leverage. Operating leverage of a business entity is calculated as a sum total of the amount of fixed costs it bears, whereby the higher the amount of fixed costs, the higher the operating leverage will be. Combine the two and we get the total leverage. So, what does leveraging mean for a business? It is the use of external funds for expansion, startup or asset acquisition. Businesses can also use leveraged equity to raise funds from existing investors.

Why Use Financial Leverage?

Leverage is used for these basic purposes:

  1. To expand a firm’s or an individual’s asset base and generate returns on risk capital. This means that there is an increase in ROE and Earnings Per Share.
  2. To increase the potential of earnings.
  3. For favourable tax treatment, since in many countries, the interest expense is tax deductible. So, the net cost to the borrower is reduced.

Leveraged Equity

When the cost of capital debt is low, leveraged equity can increase returns for shareholders. When you own stock in a company that has a significant amount of debt (financial leverage), you have leveraged equity. It entails the same amount of risk as leveraged debt. Therefore, the stockholder experiences the same benefits and costs as using debt.

Trading Leverage

Trading leverage or leveraged trading allows you to control much larger amounts in a trade, with a minimal deposit in your account. Leveraged trading is also known as margin trading. You can open up a small account with a brokerage, and then essentially borrow money from the broker to open a large position. This allows traders to magnify the amount of profits earned.

Remember, however, that this also magnifies the potential losses. Stock market leverage includes trading stocks with only a small amount of trading capital. This is also seen in forex leveraging, wherein traders are allowed to open positions on currency prices larger than what they can afford with their account balance alone.

It should be remembered that leverage does not alter the profit potential of a trade; but instead, reduces the amount of equity that you use. Leveraged trading is also considered a double-edged sword, since accounts with higher leverage get affected by large price swings, increasing the chances of triggering a stop-loss. Therefore, it is essential to exercise risk management when it comes to leveraged instruments.

What is Leverage in Forex?

Financial leverage is essentially an account boost for Forex traders. With the help of forex leveraging, a trader can open orders as large as 1,000 times greater than their own capital. In other words, leverage is a way for traders to gain access to much larger volumes than they would initially be able to trade with. More and more traders are deciding to move into the FX (Forex, also known as the Foreign Exchange Market) market every day.

Trading currencies online is an exciting experience, and is accessible for many traders, and while each person will have their own reasons for trading in this market, the level of financial leverage available remains one of the most popular reasons for traders choosing to trade on the FX market.

When visiting sites that are dedicated to trading, it’s possible that you’re going to see a lot of flashy banners offering something like ” trade with 0.01 lots, ECN and 500:1 leverage”. While each of these terms may not be immediately clear to a beginner, the request to have Forex leverage explained seems to be the most common one.

Although we defined leverage earlier, let’s explore it in greater detail:

Many traders define leverage as a credit line that a broker provides to their client. This isn’t exactly true, as leverage does not have the features that are issued together with credit. First of all, when you are trading with leverage you are not expected to pay any credit back. You are simply obliged to close your position, or keep it open before it is closed by the margin call. In other words, there is no particular deadline for settling your leverage boost provided by the broker.

In addition, there is also no interest on leverage, instead, FX Swaps are usually what it takes to transfer your position overnight. However, unlike regular loans, the swap payments can also be profitable for a trader. To sum up, leverage is a tool that increases the size of the maximum position that can be opened by a trader. Now we have a better understanding of Forex trading leverage, let’s see how it works with an example.

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How Does Forex Leverage Work?

Let’s say a trader has 1,000 USD on their trading account. A regular lot of ‘1’ on MetaTrader 4 is equal to 100,000 currency units. As it is possible to trade mini and even micro lots with Admiral Markets, a deposit this size would allow a trader to open micro lots (0.01 of a single lot or 1,000 currency units) with no leverage put in place. However, as a trader would usually be looking for around 2% return per trade, it could only be equal to 20 USD.

This is why many traders decide to employ gearing, also known as financial leverage, in their trading – so that the size of the trading position and profits could be higher. Let’s assume a trader with 1,000 USD on their account balance wants to trade big and their broker is supplying a leverage of 1:500. This way a trader can open a position that is as large as 5 lots, when it is denominated in USD. In other words, 1,000 USD * 500 (the leverage), would equal a maximum size of 500,000 USD for the position. The trader can actually request their orders of 500 times the size of his deposit to be filled.

This way, if 1:500 leverage is used, a trader would be making 500 USD instead of 1 USD. It is of course important to state that a trader can lose the funds as quickly as it is possible to gain them. Now as we have understood the definition and a practical example of leverage, let’s take a more detailed look at its application, and find out what the best possible level of gearing in FX trading is. Admiral Markets offers varying leverages which are dependent on client status via Admiral Markets Pro terms.

For retail clients, leverages of up to 1:30 for currency pairs and 1:20 for indices are available. For professional clients, a maximum leverage of up to 1:500 is available for currency pairs, indices, energies and precious metals. Both retail and professional status come with their own unique benefits and trade-offs, so it’s a good idea to investigate them fully before trading. Find out today if you’re eligible for professional terms, so you can maximise your trading potential, and keep your leverage where you want it to be!

Which Leverage to Use in Forex

It is hard to determine the best level one should use, as it mainly depends on the trader’s strategy and the actual vision of upcoming market moves. As a rule of thumb, the longer you expect to keep your position open, the smaller the leverage should be. This would be logical, as long positions are usually opened when large market moves are expected. However, when you are looking for a long lasting position, you will want to avoid being ‘Stopped Out’ due to market fluctuations.

In contrast, when a trader opens a position that is expected to last for a few minutes or even seconds, they are mainly aiming to extract the maximum amount of profit within a limited time. What is the best forex leveraging in this case? Usually such a person would be aiming to employ high, or in some cases, the highest possible leverage to assure the largest profit is realised, while trading small market fluctuations.

From this we can see that the Forex leverage ratio strongly depends on the strategy that is going to be used. To give you a better overview, scalpers and breakout traders try to use as high a leverage as possible, as they usually look for quick trades. Positional traders often trade with low leverage or none at all. A desired leverage for a positional trader usually starts at 5:1 and goes up to about 20:1.

When scalping, traders tend to employ a leverage that starts at 50:1 and may go as high as 500:1. Knowing the effect of leveraging and the optimal leverage Forex trading ratio is vital for a successful trading strategy, as you never want to overtrade, but you always want to be able to squeeze the maximum out of potentially profitable trades. Usually a trader is advised to experiment with leverage within their strategy for a while, in order to find the most suitable one.

To learn more about why lower leverage is good for retail traders and what is the success rate for high vs. low leverage, watch this free webinar here:

FX Broker Offers

Unlike futures and stock brokers that offer limited leverage or none at all, the offers from FX brokers are much more attractive for traders that are aiming to enjoy the maximum gearing size. It is hard to indicate the size of the leverage that a Forex trader should look for, yet most of the Forex broker leverages available start at 100:1 and tend to be an average of 200:1. There are also many brokers that can supply 1:500 leverage.

Also, in very rare cases it is possible to open an account with a broker that supplies 1,000:1, however, there aren’t many traders who would actually want to use gearing at this level.

How to Change Forex Leverage

Once you begin trading with a certain FX broker, you may want to modify the leverage available to you. This depends on the broker. With Admiral Markets you can use an industry standardised procedure that includes authenticating to the Trader’s Room, selecting your account, and changing the leverage available. This action takes immediate effect, so be careful if you have open positions when you attempt to reduce your leverage.

Another important aspect to remember is that leverage is tied to the account deposit level, so sometimes when depositing extra funds into your account, currency trading leverage can be reduced. For example, a broker may supply a leverage of 1:500 on the deposits below 1,000 USD, and a leverage of 1:200 on the deposits between 1,000 and 5,000 USD.

Once a trader has 950 USD, and opens a 3 lot position on EURUSD, they may decide to deposit a bit more to sustain a required margin, yet when the deposit occurs, the leverage will be changed, and the position might close when the Stop Out level has been reached.


We hope that this article has been useful to you, and that by now you have clearly understood the nature of gearing, how to calculate Forex leverage, and how it can be equally be useful or harmful to your trading strategy. It is important to state that leveraged Forex trading is quite a risky process, and your deposit can be lost quickly if you are trading using a large leverage. Do try to avoid any leveraged or highly leveraged trading before you have gained enough experience.

Trade With Admiral Markets

If you’re feeling inspired to start trading, or this article has provided some extra insight to your existing trading knowledge, you may be pleased to know that Admiral Markets provides the ability to trade with Forex and CFDs on up to 80+ currencies, with the latest market updates and technical analysis provided for FREE! Click the banner below to open your live account today!

About Admiral Markets
Admiral Markets is a multi-award winning, globally regulated Forex and CFD broker, offering trading on over 8,000 financial instruments via the world’s most popular trading platforms: MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5. Start trading today!

This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments. Please note that such trading analysis is not a reliable indicator for any current or future performance, as circumstances may change over time. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks.

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