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What Are Margins And How Can Margin Shortfall Occur

26 Jul 2023


When it comes to trading, understanding the concept of margins is crucial. Margins play a significant role in determining your trading positions and can have a major impact on your overall profitability. Let's explore the world of margins, focusing on the occurrence of margin shortfalls in trading accounts.

What are margins in trading?

In trading, margins refer to the collateral required by brokers to open and maintain trading positions. Initial margin and maintenance margin are the two types of margins applicable in the markets.

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The initial margin is the amount of money or assets you need to deposit to open a trading position. Whereas, the maintenance margin is the minimum amount required to keep the position open.

What is a margin call and margin shortfall?

A margin call occurs when the value of your trading positions falls below the required maintenance margin. This triggers a demand from the broker for you to deposit additional funds or close out some positions to restore the required margin level. 

What are the causes of a margin shortfall?

Margin shortfalls can occur due to various reasons. Some of the common reasons are as follows:

  • Market volatility and price fluctuations: Rapid and significant market movements can lead to margin shortfalls if the value of your positions declines rapidly.
  • High leverage and increased risk: Trading with high leverage amplifies both gains and losses. If a trade goes against you, the losses can quickly exceed the available margin.
  • Inadequate risk management strategies: There can be a failure to implement effective risk management techniques, such as setting appropriate stop-loss orders. This can expose you to larger losses and potential margin shortfalls.
  • Unexpected news or events impacting the market: Economic announcements, geopolitical developments, or natural disasters can lead to sudden market shifts. Thereby, causing margin shortfalls for unprepared traders.

Examples of margin shortfall scenarios

Let's consider a couple of scenarios to better understand margin shortfalls:

Example 1: Margin shortfall due to sudden market drop

Imagine a scenario where you hold a long position in a stock, and a negative news announcement causes a sharp decline in its value. If the decline is substantial enough to breach your maintenance margin, a margin call may occur.

Example 2: Margin shortfall due to excessive leverage

Suppose you decide to take a highly leveraged position on a currency pair, expecting a significant price movement. However, if the market moves against your prediction, the losses can quickly deplete your available margin, leading to a margin call.

How to manage a margin shortfall?

When facing a margin shortfall, taking immediate action is essential to protect your trading account. You can consider taking the following steps:

  1. Close out positions or reduce exposure: Liquidate losing positions or reduce your exposure to minimise losses and meet margin requirements.
  2. Deposit additional funds into the trading account: Injecting more capital into the account can help restore the required margin level.

What are the preventive measures to avoid margin shortfalls?

To avoid margin shortfalls, you can implement these preventive measures:

  • Set appropriate stop-loss orders: Placing stop-loss orders helps limit potential losses and protects your account from sudden market movements.
  • Diversify your trading portfolio: Spreading your investments across different assets can help mitigate the risk of a single position causing significant margin shortfalls.
  • Regularly review and adjust risk management strategies: Stay vigilant and adapt your risk management techniques based on market conditions.


Understanding margins and their implications is crucial for traders. Margin shortfalls can occur due to various factors, and being prepared is essential to protect your trading account. You must implement effective risk management strategies and closely monitor your margin requirements. This way you can navigate the world of trading with greater confidence and minimise the risk of margin shortfalls impacting your profitability. Stay informed, be proactive, and trade responsibly.


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