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Foreign Exchange

Regulatory plans to clamp down on retail FX leverage divide opinion

ESMA and IOSCO are looking at how best to tackle the issue of excessive leverage in the retail FX market – reactions among retail brokers are mixed.


Regulators have long expressed concern that the availability of excessive leverage in the retail FX market represents a notable risk, both for individual traders – who might lose more money than they can afford – and for the system as a whole.

In recent weeks, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has moved to tackle the issue, with a proposal to set a leverage cap for retail FX trading.

The proposed cap would limit leverage to 30-times for major currency pairs and 20 times for non-major pairs and gold, with even lower limits for some other commodities.

The International Organization of Securities Commissions’ (IOSCO) guidance is less prescriptive, but seeks to draw attention to concerns about retail over-the-counter leveraged products – such as rolling spot FX contracts, contracts for difference and binary options – and the different approaches countries have taken to regulating them.

“A large majority of investors in these products very often lose money,” it says in a recent report.

Retail FX brokers have long argued that capping leverage will prove counterproductive. One argument goes that retail investors are drawn to FX specifically because they are able to use leverage and that by curtailing this freedom regulators would end up driving liquidity out of the market.

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