Let’s start with basics:
If you want to trade futures, you have to put good faith margin down. At the moment, margin for ALSI futures is R15 500 per contract and it is a security deposit that is held by your broker, clearing house and JSE/SAFEX. For each contract that you want to trade, you have to put down additional R15 500. Margin is payable back to you when you close your positions, but your account will be credited/debited with amount equal to profit/loss that you make every day. (Even when you don’t trade, but you have open position, Market-to-market (MTM) value will be taken in consideration and your account will be credited/debited for MTM movement.) For curios readers, experienced in trading stocks - this is different from trading stocks, as there you would, let’s say, buy certain number of stocks for R R15 500 and when you sell your holdings you will have profit or loss reflecting in your account – one day, one month or even later, subject to how long you hold onto your stocks.
That brings us to second point. You must have more than R15 500 in your account to trade ALSI futures contract. These additional funds are for day-to-day movement. You could, theoretically, start with R15 500, but in that case your first trading day has to be a positive one as you have to stay afloat at all the times. Otherwise, your broker will phone you in order for you fund your account to meet margin requirement of R 15 500 per contract traded. If you don’t do that, they will close your position and use portion of margin to cover your loss.
From my experience and considering system I trade, for which entries/exits are given on my twitter page, minimum to have per contract equals to TWO TIMES required margin amount. Simply said, to trade one contract you must have R31 000 in your trading account. More conservative stance is to have THREE times your margin. Again, this depends on market volatility, as if market moves faster - bigger amount is needed per contract traded. (As market conditions of the second half of 2008 and beginning of 2009 dictated - I guess even three times margin per contract was not enough). As an example, if you have R31 000 available per contract traded, you can survive market going 1550 points against you in one single trade. This is approximately 7% of ALSI price as I type this. With R46 500 per contract you will be protected from 15% ALSI drop and that could, probably, save you from being wiped out in case you were long when September 11th happened.
Leverage=(Current ALSI Price*10)/Margin
Hope this explains difference between trading ALSI futures and any other stock listed on Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).