1. From investopedia

    Here's an example of a "yen carry trade": a trader borrows 1,000 Japanese yen from a Japanese bank, converts the funds into U.S. dollars and buys a bond for the equivalent amount. Let's assume that the bond pays 4.5% and the Japanese interest rate is set at 0%. The trader stands to make a profit of 4.5% as long as the exchange rate between the countries does not change. Many professional traders use this trade because the gains can become very large when leverage is taken into consideration. If the trader in our example uses a common leverage factor of 10:1, then she can stand to make a profit of 45%.

    I was wondering how leverage and leverage factor are defined?

    For leverage factor, from another source

    The capital for the investment comes from equity and debt, and the amount of the debt divided by the total capital is the leverage factor.

    it seems like different from the one used in investopedia. The latter, I guess, is the ratio of the debt to the equity?

  2. Also what does leverage ratio of a bank mean in the following quote:

    In 2008 typical leverage ratios were

    Commercial banks: 10 to 1

    Investment banks: 30 to 1

Thanks and regards!

3 Answers 3


This would clear out a lot more.

1) Leverage is the act of taking on debt in lieu of the equity you hold. Not always related to firms, it applies to personal situations too. When you take a loan, you get a certain %age of the loan, the bank establishes your equity by looking at your past financial records and then decides the amount it is going to lend, deciding on the safest leverage. In the current action leverage is the whole act of borrowing yen and profiting from it. The leverage factor mentions the amount of leverage happening. 10000 yen being borrowed with an equity of 1000 yen.

2) Commercial banks: 10 to 1 -> They don't deal in complicated investments, derivatives except for hedging, and are under stricter controls of the government. They have to have certain amount of liquidity and can loan out the rest for business.

Investment banks: 30 to 1 -> Their main idea is making money and trade heavily. Their deposits are limited by the amount clients have deposited. And as their main motive is to get maximum returns from the available amount, they trade heavily. Derivatives, one of the instruments, are structured on underlyings and sometimes in multiple layers which build up quite a bit of leverage. And all of the trades happen on margins. You don't invest $10k to buy $10k of a traded stock. You put in, maybe $500 to take up the position and borrow the rest of the amount per se. It improves liquidity in the markets and increases efficiency. Else you could do only with what you have. So these margins add up to the leverage the bank is taking on.

  • just one comment deposits are actually liabilities and actually serve to drive the leverage ratio higher. You are actually loaning the bank your money when you make a deposit.
    – Pablitorun
    Dec 8, 2011 at 19:51
  • Nope deposits are both assets and liabilities for the bank, not only liability. The bank can use the money to do business and generate income(asset) and have to return it when demanded(liability).
    – DumbCoder
    Dec 9, 2011 at 8:34
  • 1
    sure once they take the loan. (Take the deposit) they can use the money to buy an asset, but a deposit is only a liability. They owe that money back on demand. You are mixing two very seperate things though. My mortgage is not an asset, but the house I bought with it is.
    – Pablitorun
    Dec 9, 2011 at 14:18
  • I am certainly not mixing things for sure. Just because the deposit needs to be returned when demanded doesn't make it only a liability. The cash a bank holds is an asset for the bank for sure. Banks only source of revenue generation isn't giving out loans, investments are also made by banks(maybe not as risky as investment banks). Your house and mortgage isn't a proper example in this scenario as compared to a bank.
    – DumbCoder
    Dec 9, 2011 at 14:59
  • 1
    I think we are mostly in agreement. I am not even entirely sure what part of your answer I was commenting on....:( The only point I was trying to make is that taking on more deposits raises the leverage factor of the bank in question. You are right the liabilities, (the deposit account) and the assets (the cash from the deposit) increase, but since the equity doesn't change the leverage factor goes up.
    – Pablitorun
    Dec 9, 2011 at 19:50

Your original example is a little confusing because just shorting for 1k and buying for 1k is 100% leveraged or an infinitive leverage ratio. (and not allowed)

Brokerage houses would require you to invest some capital in the trade. One example might be requiring you to hold $100 in the brokerage. This is where the 10:1 ratio comes from. (1000/10)

Thus a return of 4.5% on the 1000k bond and no movement on the short position would net you $45 and voila a 45% return on your $100 investment.

A 40 to 1 leverage ratio would mean that you would only have to invest $25 to make this trade. Something that no individual investor are allowed to do, but for some reason some financial firms have been able to.


Leverage in simple terms is how of your own money to how much of borrowed money.

So in 2008 Typical leverage ratios were Investment Banks 30:1 means that for every 1 Unit of Banks money [shareholders capital/ long term debts] there were 30 Units of borrowed money [from deposits/for other institutions/etc]. This is a very unstable situation as typically say you lent out 31 to someone else, halfway through repayments, the depositors and other lends are asking you 30 back. You are sunk. Now let's say you lent 31 to someone, but 30 was your money and 1 was from deposits/etc. Then you can anytime more easily pay back the 1 to the depositor.

In day trading, usually one squares away the position the same day or within a short period. Hence say you want to buy something worth 1000 in the morning and are selling it say the same day. You are expecting the price to be 1005 and a gain of 5. Now when you buy via your broker/trader, you may not be required to pay 1000. Normally one just needs to pay margin money, typically 10% [varies from market to market, country to country]. So in the first case, if you put 1000 and get by 5, you made a profit of 0.5%. However, if you were to pay only 10 as margin money [the rest of 990 is assumed loan from your broker]. You sell at 1005, the broker deducts his 990, and you get 15. So technically on 10, you have made 5 more, ie 50% returns. So this is leveraging of 100:1. If say your broker allowed only 0.5% margin money, then you just need to pay 5 for the 1000 trade, and get back 5. You have made a 100% profit, but the leveraging is 200:1.

Now let's say at this high leveraging when you are selling you get only 990. So you still owe the broker 5, if you can't pay up and if a lot of other such people can't pay up, then the broker will also go bankrupt and there is a huge risk.

Hence although leveraging help in quite a few cases, there is always an associated risk when things go wrong badly.

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