What is equity in financial trading?

What is equity in financial trading?

In financial trading, gains from active trading positions are usually confused with the trading account balance. Equity in financial trading is calculated by adding or deducting the value of your active trades to your balance. It is different from the account balance, which shows the money you have in your account from closed trading positions.

Financial equity is the minimum requirement you need to keep in your trading account, especially if you are trading using borrowed funds from the broker. Your account equity changes according to your open trades - it will either go up or down according to the market changes on your active trades.

Most financial trading platforms indicate the balance and equity separately. However, if your trading software does not show you the difference between equity and balance, the following guide will help you understand what equity is in your trading account and how to calculate it.


Understanding Equity

When you trade in any financial market with a broker, you will have a balance in your trading account. Using that balance, you can open different market positions to trade different financial instruments.

Your trading account equity includes the money in your balance and the money you invested in market positions. If you have any open position in the market, your equity changes according to your returns from the trade.

Your market position returns are more likely to change moment by moment because market prices fluctuate, which means that your equity is also fluctuating. Depending on your market returns, your equity may increase or decrease.

"The stock market is filled with individuals who know the price of everything, but the value of nothing." - Phillip Fisher

Calculating the Equity

Your equity changes according to your market position. This means that your equity is now different from what it was 1 day, or even 2 hours ago, simply because the financial markets keep moving.

Most brokers’ websites automatically calculate the equity and balance of your trading account, and you are most likely going to see them without doing calculations. However, there are some basics that you need to know.

If you have active trades

Your equity depends on your active trades, and it changes constantly if you have an active market position.

Let’s say for example you have deposited $1,000 into your trading account, and you bought 1 share of company ABC that cost $100. If the stock price declines and your market position is now worth only $90, your equity is then calculated by the sum total of the unused money left in your account plus the returns of all your open market positions ($900 + $90 = $990).

Therefore, we can conclude that if you have active trades, your equity is the remaining balance in your account plus the current value of active trades.

If you don’t have active trades

It is easier to calculate equity if you don’t have active trades because then your equity is exactly what you see in your balance. Here, you don’t need any additional calculations because you simply don’t have any active trades.

Consider the previous example - if you close your market position at $90 incurring a loss of $10, this return will show in your trading account. In this case, your trading balance will show $990, which is also your total equity.

Hence, we can conclude that if you do not have active trades, your trading account balance equals your equity.

Equity vs Balance


Some traders confuse equity with balance. The equity takes into consideration the worth of your active market positions along with the remaining amount in your trading account. It gives you the real-time worth of your money.

However, the balance only looks at your current trading account's remaining funds, without adding the worth of your active market positions.

You might have a huge balance in your account but very small equity. This happens if your market position is incurring large losses and went into the negative, so if you close your trade, it will reflect on your account dragging your balance lower than before.

Therefore, if you don’t have active trades then your equity is the same as your balance, but if you have active trades then your equity equals your balance added to the value of current trades.

Factors That Affect Your Equity

Since equity relies on the value of your market positions, it changes every time the value of your trading positions changes. 

If you are trading on a margin, which means you are using borrowed funds from the broker through a process called leverage, the broker will ask you to keep the equity to a certain level, and you need to maintain it if the equity drops below the limit. 

As the equity includes the current market value, if you are trading with a margin and the return of the market position falls, you need to add funds to your account to increase the equity to a certain level.

The broker will ask you to do so because their money is also involved in your trade, and they are not willing to lose it. Your broker will initiate a margin call and give you a deadline to increase the equity in your account, otherwise, it will get liquidated.

What Did We Learn From This Equity in Financial Trading Guide?

  • Equity includes the amount in your trading account as well as the return from your active trades 
  • Equity differs from balance. The balance only looks at the amount in your trading account after closing market positions
  • If you don’t have any active trades, then your equity and the balance are the same
  • If you are trading on a margin (using leverage), the broker will require you to keep your equity up to a certain level, it is a risk-management factor for the broker

FAQs on Equity in Financial Trading

What is included in the trading account?

Your trading account will show you the balance and equity. The balance shows you the amount of money you have if you close your trading positions. However, the equity can be more or less than your balance because it takes into account the losses/gains from active trades.

How is equity calculated in MT4?

Equity is calculated by taking your trading account balance, and adding or subtracting the current value of your active trades. In MT4, it is shown in the trading terminal below the chart, and it is located down below next to the profit and margin. 

What is the difference between balance and equity in forex trading?

Balance calculates the money in your trading account from closed market positions and is different from equity. The equity takes into consideration your gains or losses from active trades in the different financial markets, and they are then added to or subtracted from your balance.

Equity and capital, are they the same?

No. Equity is the total amount of your trading account including the balance, profits/losses, from active trades. However, capital is the money that you can use to spend or to open new trading positions in the market.