The Ruble Trade of February 2022
February 2022 saw extreme volatility in the Ruble foreign exchange markets as worrying geopolitics hit the news. DXS saw a sharp jump in trading activity as speculators sought to capitalise on the fast-moving events. Traders the world over jumped on the USD/RUB long trade — it was as close to a sure thing as you could get if you caught the move.
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Yes! We used to be TDXP and we’re in the process of rebranding to DXS. We decided to make the change due to TD Bank Group contesting our TDXP EU trademark application.
Read this post if you’d like to learn more.
But big volatility comes with big risk.
And leverage further magnifies the danger.
The Ruble trade seemed worth the risk, and many of you made big money on the trading that week. But some unwary traders may have been taken by surprise by the speed of their liquidation.
For this reason, we will look at some numbers that illustrate how leverage, volatility and widening spreads can work together to drastically reduce the distance between your entry and the unwanted liquidation of your position.
On the DXS platform auto-liquidation occurs when the price changes to a point that represents an 80% loss on the margin posted. Here’s how that price changes with leverage:
You can see clearly here how increasing leverage decreases the margin requirements for a given sized trade, and decreases the monetary loss if that trade is liquidated.
The last column demonstrates how the distance to liquidation is shortened by the same degree as the leverage applied:
- Zero leverage requires an 80% price movement against your position to trigger liquidation
- 10X leverage is liquidated by a 10X smaller price change — only 8%
- 100X leverage, just 8%
At the time of the Ruble price run, we were still offering 300X leverage on USD/RUB — and traders were using it!
In the 2 weeks running up to February 14th, the average daily USD/RUB price range was 1.3% of the daily open price.
But look what happened to the price action after the 15th:
Consider these large daily price ranges in light of the numbers in the first table, where you can see that at 100X leverage you only need a price move of .8% below your entry point for liquidation.
On the other hand, the same 8% price move in the other direction would have seen a quick 80% profit!
And if you caught all of the big 39% price range on the 28th, you could have brought in a 3900% profit with a 100X leverage trade — 2 BSV would have made you 78 BSV profit.
This market was on fire.
It wasn’t just the size of the moves, it was the speed. At one stage, the price action was moving up to 2 Rubles from one moment to the next. Using 75X leverage, you could have been liquidated almost instantly.
That’s risky. And the risk was increased even further by the effect of volatility on spreads.
Volatility and Spreads
The spread is the difference between the market buy and sell price. With ordinary volatility, this difference is quite small. But the spread widens with increasing volatility.
For order book-based trading platforms, spreads widen in response to volatility due to decreasing liquidity. Non-order book-based platforms such as DXS mirror this to protect liquidity. If we didn’t, the liquidity pool could be drained and that would be the end of DXS.
The spreads widen synthetically based on an algorithm applied to the volatility.
On DXS, the semi-spread (half the spread) is indicated in the market data box of your chosen market.
The important thing to know is that spreads can widen dramatically and instantly in response to violent price moves. Here’s an example from the Ruble:
On February 28, 2022 at 12.03, the spread on USD/RUB was .73%
- BID 94.90750
- ASK 94.97750
That’s already a huge spread. Normal forex spreads are more like .02%.
Just 2 minutes later, at 12.05, the price had moved 6%, and the spread instantly widened to 2.98%
- BID 100.59600
- ASK 103.59600
Fantastic if you timed it right and caught the move! But if you opened your trade at 12.05, you would have been instantly liquidated by the large spread if you used anything over 27X leverage. That’s without the price even moving!
Check the spread before you open a trade.
Leverage and Spreads
For a given spread, using leverage increases the effect of the spread in real terms. At 12.05 on Feb 28th, the spread on the USD/RUB would have cost 3 RUB with no leverage. At 100X leverage, the same spread then cost 300 RUB. The spread increases as a proportion of your margin by the same factor as your leverage.
Using leverage brings the liquidation price closer to your entry price.
The Ruble market volatility in February 2022 was both spectacular and extremely uncommon. But it highlights the way that leverage, volatility, and spreads can interact to substantially increase your odds of getting liquidated.
Volatility — we live for it as traders. Just be mindful of the risks.
P.S. In the first 4 days of March 2022, DXS traders closed over $70 million USD in USD/RUB trades, netting over $600k in profits.