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Trading foreign exchange on margin carries a high level of risk, and may not be suitable for all investors. Before deciding to trade foreign exchange you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite. You could sustain a loss of some or all of your initial investment and should not invest money that you cannot afford to lose. Trading foreign exchange on margin carries a high level of risk, and may not be suitable for all investors. Before deciding to trade foreign exchange you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite. You could sustain a loss of some or all of your initial investment and should not invest money that you cannot afford to lose.

Mean reversion in forex trading

Price extremes across currency pairs have many traders wondering when prices will revert back. Learn about the pros and cons of the popular trade strategy known as mean reversion.

Mean reversion is a concept based in statistics that assumes prices will move away from their ‘mean’ value in the short term while always returning to it in the long term. This theory cannot be confirmed given that markets are to an extent random and thus unpredictable, but there are many historical examples to support its relevance in asset classes like forex, interest rates, and stock volatility.*

Find out more about calculating mean reversion

Historical mean reversion

Mean reversion is especially popular among traders in forex markets. Even though many currency pairs can experience multiyear price extremes and high volatility, across decades the same pairs are widely viewed as mean reverting. The thirty-year chart of EUR/USD below illustrates how often the pair crosses the long-term mean.

EUR/USD historical prices

EUR-USD historical mean Source: IG

Managing price extreme risk

While forex pairs may revert to historical means over a long horizon, positions can still move against traders towards extremes in the short term. There are several methods traders can employ to mitigate such risks:

Scaling

Scaling involves reducing lot size in order to save enough capital to act again if the market moves against you. By doing so, traders are more likely to capture the price extreme. In the example below, breaking the trade into four orders of 0.25 lots as the price moves higher allows the trader to profit from moves down from 158.00.

However, if the market continued to trade higher, then the trader would still have a full 1.0 lot of risk and could experience large losses.

EUR/JPY historical prices with scaling example

Scaling into a trading position means dividing up a unit into multiple increments to spread out an opening or closing position over multiple prices. Source: IG

Stop-loss orders

Stop-loss orders help traders to set limits for closing their position as soon as they open it. By setting exit prices upon entry using stop-loss orders, traders can automate management mechanics without having to actively enter closing orders in a moving market.

In the example below, setting a stop-loss order at 156 when entering the trade at 154 allows the trader to elect whether or not to open a new position at 158 without holding the initial position all the way to the price extreme.

Stop-loss orders can serve as a risk mitigation tool to limit adverse price action, but it should be noted that they do not guarantee a fill at a specified price; stop-loss orders technically trigger market orders when a price level is hit, and that market order can include slippage.

Learn more about using stop-loss orders

EUR/JPY historical prices with stop-loss order example

Stop-loss orders trigger closing market orders are predetermined levels upon order entry. Source: IG

Diversification

Another way to reduce risk in a forex pair is to diversify positions across pairs. Price extremes can exist simultaneously in multiple currency pairs; taking several different mean reversion positions reduces exposure to a single currency pair that could experience price extremes for extended periods of time.

EUR/JPY and GBP/AUD historical prices as diversification example

Diversification includes trading or investing in multiple markets as opposed to one in an effort to manage risk. Source: IG

How to trade forex using mean reversion

  1. Open an account to get started, or practice on a demo account
  2. Choose your forex trading platform
  3. Open, monitor, and close positions on forex pairs

Trading forex markets using mean reversion requires an account with a forex provider like IG. Many traders watch major forex pairs like EUR/USD and USD/JPY for potential opportunities based on mean reversion. Contrarians might go against a price extreme, while trend followers might go with it.

You can help develop your forex trading strategies using resources like IG’s Trading Academy. Once your strategy is developed, you can follow the above steps to opening an account and getting started trading forex.

Your profit or loss is calculated according to your full position size. Leverage will magnify both your profits and losses. It’s important to manage your risks carefully as losses can exceed your deposit. Ensure you understand the risks and benefits associated with trading leveraged products before you start trading with them. Trade using money you’re comfortable losing.

*IG US provides forex products only

This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG US LLC. This material does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. You should not treat any opinion expressed in this material as a specific inducement to make any investment or follow any strategy, but only as an expression of opinion. This material does not consider your investment objectives, financial situation or needs and is not intended as recommendations appropriate for you. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the above information. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. See our Summary Conflicts Policy, available on our website.

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