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Initial Margin


Initial margin refers to the upfront collateral, usually expressed as a percentage of a security’s total market value, that investors must provide when opening a futures contract, selling short, or trading with margin borrowing. It is a risk-management tool designed to safeguard against potential losses from these investment strategies. The initial margin may vary depending on the investment, broker, market conditions, and security involved.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Initial Margin” is /ɪˈnɪʃəl ˈmɑːrdʒɪn/.

Key Takeaways

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  1. Initial Margin is a deposit or a collateral that is required when entering the trading contracts or investing in the stock market. It serves as a guarantee for fulfilling the obligations of the contract or covering losses in case of adverse market movements.
  2. Regulated by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the main U.S. future exchanges, Initial Margin requirements are formulated based on various factors including market volatility and liquidity of the assets. It helps in maintaining financial market stability preventing traders from over-leveraging their positions.
  3. Failure to meet Initial Margin requirements can result in the closure of the position or a margin call where the investor will need to replenish their account. It is a precautionary measure to mitigate credit risk associated with an investment.


Initial Margin is a crucial term in finance and business as it’s a primary preventive measure against the losses that a brokerage firm may incur in case of a client’s failed open futures contract or securities purchase. It refers to the percentage of the total market value of securities that an investor must deposit into their margin account at the time of purchase. Its importance lies in its role of providing a buffer for losses in volatile markets. By enforcing this, it ensures that individuals and firms are able to pay for any potential losses incurred without slipping into bankruptcy, thereby ensuring market stability.


The primary purpose of the initial margin in the world of finance and business addresses the risk involved in financial trading. It serves as a safeguard and a risk mitigation tool used in the futures and derivatives markets. The initial margin amount is typically determined by a percentage of the total value of the financial instrument being traded. The reason for this is it acts as a kind of collateral or security deposit to cover any potential losses that a trader might incur. It insures the broker against potential losses they may encounter from the trader’s position.The use of initial margin is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the market and provides a measure of security for all parties involved. By ensuring that a certain amount of capital is deposited into an account before a trade can be made, it reduces the chances of a trader defaulting on their obligations. In other words, it lessens the potential risk a broker might engage with when a client enters into a trade, thus, keeping the financial market stable even in volatile situations. In case a trader’s loss exceeds the initial margin, the broker can issue a margin call, requiring the trader to deposit additional funds to cover the loss.


1. Stock Market Trading: The stock market often uses the term initial margin in buying securities on margin. For instance, a trader wants to buy 100 shares of a company’s stock priced at $20 per share. The total cost would be $2,000. However, the broker allows the trader to buy the shares on margin, meaning the trader only needs to upfront a portion of the total cost. The broker requires an initial margin of 50%, so the trader only needs to pay $1,000 upfront.2. Futures Trading: In futures trading, the initial margin is the initial deposit a trader must pay to enter into a futures contract. For example, if a commodities trader wants to invest in oil futures, they need to post an initial margin to their broker. If the initial margin requirement is 15% and the total value of the contract is $200,000, the trader would need to post an initial margin of $30,000.3. Forex Trading: In the foreign exchange market, trading currency pairs on a margin is quite common. For example, if a trader wants to buy $100,000 worth of USD/EUR, but the broker’s initial margin requirement is 1%, they need to deposit only $1,000 in their trading account as the initial margin.These examples clearly demonstrate how initial margin allows investors or traders to leverage their positions and potentially earn higher returns. However, the risk of losses is also multiplied if the market moves against their positions.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Initial Margin?

The Initial Margin refers to the minimum amount you need to deposit into a new futures contract as a guarantee on future performance. It serves as a down payment on the obligations of the contract.

Who determines the amount of the Initial Margin?

The amount of the Initial Margin is generally set by the exchange or brokerage firm and varies based on the specific contract and the volatility of the market.

How is the Initial Margin different from the Maintenance Margin?

The Initial Margin is the minimum deposit when you first open a futures contract. The Maintenance Margin, on the other hand, is the minimum amount that should be maintained in your margin account after the contract has been opened. If the balance falls below this level, you’ll have to add more funds.

Is the Initial Margin refundable?

Yes, the Initial Margin is refundable. At the end of the contract, the balance, including any gains or losses, will be returned to the account holder.

What happens if I don’t meet the Initial Margin requirement?

If you fail to meet the Initial Margin requirement, your broker may close out your position. This means they will sell the assets at the market price, which could potentially result in a loss.

Can the amount required for the Initial Margin change over time?

Yes, the amount required for the Initial Margin can change depending on market conditions. If market volatility increases, the required margin may be raised as well.

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