Variation Margin: Definition, Examples, and FAQs

By | December 15, 2023

This margin functions as collateral against the amount borrowed by the investor. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) requires the maintenance margin xm forex review to be set at a minimum of 25% for stocks. Other brokerages can set higher minimums, such as 50%, depending on the level of risk and the investor involved.

This payment ensures that both parties are protected from potential losses resulting from market fluctuations. Clearing members are required to pay variation margins on a day-to-day or an intraday basis in order to reduce the risk exposure of high-risk positions carried by clearinghouses. Thus, collecting variation margin from its members enables a clearinghouse to maintain the overall risk exposure at suitable levels such that orderly payments for all traders are facilitated. The difference between the initial margin and the maintenance margin, i.e., $1,000, is the variation margin. Thus, the variation margin is the amount of funds required to ensure the account reaches a minimum level to ensure future trades. Consider two parties enter into a contract to sell and purchase the future contract.

  1. It means that if the total account balance falls to $4,000, the trader is required to top the account back up to $5,000.
  2. It represents the amount of money that one party has to pay to the other party to compensate for any changes in the market value of the underlying asset.
  3. The variation margin is used to bring up the capital inflow of a margin account up to the predetermined margin level.
  4. So, the broker can call the buyer of the future and request to add the USD 25 to reach the threshold of USD 50.

The balance in the trading account is assessed daily after accounting for the market fluctuations. The variation margin is an additional fund required to be deposited to the future’s trading account to ensure the availability of sufficient margin when a future contract is subject to losses. Variation margin is a crucial concept in the world of finance, providing protection and ensuring fair treatment for parties involved in financial transactions. By calculating and exchanging variation margin, both parties can mitigate potential losses caused by fluctuations in market values.

What happens if a trader fails to meet a margin call?

The term variation margin refers to a margin payment made by a clearing member to a clearinghouse based on the price movements of futures contracts held by the clearinghouse members. Variation margin is an essential part city index review of many financial contracts, such as futures and options. It represents the amount of money that one party has to pay to the other party to compensate for any changes in the market value of the underlying asset.

Margin call

This ensures that Party B is compensated for the change in market value. Maintenance margin is the minimum amount of the funds that must be maintained in the trading account by each of the parties in the contract. Both parties need to keep the maintenance margin in their trading account, or the contract can be liquidated. According to the Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA), the maintenance margin must be set at 25% or above in the case of stocks. Other brokerages are allowed to keep higher minimums after considering the degree of risk and investor involved.

To understand the variation margin, there is a need to understand the terms that include initial margin, maintenance margin, mark to market, and margin balance, etc. Overall, variation margin gives specific protection to the traders and the clearinghouses as well. It acts as collateral as the party at a loss may not want to pay the loss. In other words, the contract is marked to market daily to get the current value and assessment of the trading account balance if it has reached the threshold, and a margin call needs to be made.

The trader would need to top up their account with $150 in order to continue trading. A clearinghouse is an intermediary organization that ensures that both parties to a transaction, i.e., the buyer and the seller, honor the obligations of a contract. When a broker needs its investor to contribute additional funds to its trading account in order to fulfill the minimum criteria of margin amount, a margin call is made. Usually, the need for a margin call arises when the equity balance of the account falls under the minimum amount required, such as when an account loses money or takes on additional positions. Variation margin is dependent on multiple factors, such as the type of asset, prevailing market conditions, and expected price movements. The variation margin payment is deemed necessary once the funds in a trading account drop lower than the maintenance margin.

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This payment process is called “marking to market,” as it ensures that the value of the position is updated daily and reflects the current market price. The variation margin is calculated at the end of each trading day based on the settlement price, which is the official closing price of the contract. The funds requested in the margin call bring the trading balance equal to the initial margin amount. Learn about variation margin in finance, including its definition, calculation methods, and real-life examples. We introduce people to the world of trading currencies, both fiat and crypto, through our non-drowsy educational content and tools.

We’re also a community of traders that support each other on our daily trading journey. Over 1.8 million professionals use CFI to learn accounting, financial analysis, modeling and more. Start with a free account to explore 20+ always-free courses and hundreds of finance templates and cheat sheets. So, the formula for the calculations of variation margin is given as under. So, the broker can call the buyer of the future and request to add the USD 25 to reach the threshold of USD 50.

The margin call is when the trader’s broker notifies that there is a need to deposit money in the trading account. The margin call is made when the funds in the trading account fall below the maintenance level. However, USD 35 is still higher than the maintenance margin of USD 30. Suppose there is again the movement of the future’s price and falls by USD 10.

Usually, there is a level of safety between the initial margin and the maintenance margin. On the contrary, the variation margin is the amount required to top-up the trading account to the minimum margin level. The initial margin is the amount of funds to be deposited for entering the future contract. The amount can be set as a percentage of the agreed price for the futures contract or even in absolute numbers. So, to ensure a smooth run of the futures contract, the broker deducts USD 15 (USD 500-USD 485) from the trading account of the future’s buyer to reflect the current market position.

So, the remaining balance in the buyer’s trading account is USD 35 (USD 50 – USD 15). The initial margin is the amount required to be submitted in the trading account when entering the future contract. Both sellers and the buyers need to submit this amount to the trading account. For example, let’s hotforex broker review say Party A enters into a contract to buy 100 shares of Company X at $50 per share from Party B. However, over time, the market price of Company X shares increases to $55 per share. In this scenario, Party A would owe Party B a variation margin of $500, as the purchase price has increased.