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What's the best way to keep track of my forex trades so that I can determine how profitable my trading has been?

I've been looking into trading foreign exchange currency pairs for profit, but before I get too ahead of myself I want to make sure I have all the tools I need to track my success.

I found guides on the internet for how to calculate profit/loss. It makes sense when you trade 100 EUR for USD and then trade those USD back again to EUR. But it seems wayy more complicated if you trade on a cascading set of limit orders of different quantities back-and-forth. And between different pairs.

How do forex traders keep track of their trades so they can, at an instant and over time, analyze how successful they've been?

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  • is this any different from stock trading? Because I bet there's tools for stock trading Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 22:34

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The solution to tracking trade history with different quantities is to use lots.

Say your first order was to buy 100 EUR (paid with some amount of USD). For accounting purposes, we can place that buy order into Lot #1. This lot remains open until you've completed sell orders at least 100 EUR.

Examples

Here's a few examples to show how Lots can be opened with buy orders, and closed with a set (or fraction) of sell order(s).

Example 1: Sell 100 EUR

The easiest case possible is when you sell exactly the amount of EUR that you bought -- in this case, 100 EUR. When you put this 100 EUR sell order in Lot #1 it's closed.

You can now calculate the profit of Lot #1 based on [a] how much USD you bought the 100 EUR for and [b] how much you got when you sold the 100 EUR.

Example 2: Sell 50 EUR Twice

A slightly more complicated example is where you sold exactly half the amount of EUR that you bought -- in this case, two sell orders of 50 EUR. When you put both of these 50 EUR sell orders in your Lot #1, it's closed (because the total amount sold equals the total amount bought in this lot).

Again, you can use the three orders to calculate the profit of Lot #1.

Example 3: Sell unequal amounts

As time goes on, you may find yourself in a situation where you can't stuff your most-recent sell orders into your most-recent open Lot.

Let's you sold 40 EUR three times. In this case, the first two orders combined (40+40=80 EUR) don't match the most-recent buy (100 EUR), and the third exceeds it (40*3=120 EUR).

Of course, the solution is to fill Lot #42 with a fraction of the third sell order. So you add the first two Sell 40 EUR sell orders to Lot #42 and 50% of the third sell order to Lot #42. That closes out Lot #42, and you can calculate its profit.

The remaining half of the third sell order can be used to close the subsequent Lot #43.

Software

While you could keep track of your lots with pen & paper or a spreadsheet, I prefer to use a tool that was designed for this.

There's many accounting & portfolio tracking apps for this, but personally I prefer GNU Cash -- which is free, has a great community, great documentation, and has a great UI for manipulating lots.

Conclusion

You can create and close lots however you want, but I usually just create one lot for every buy order and "close" each lot with the most-recent sell order. This is called FIFO.

Though "Tax Lots" are traditionally used for taxes, you can use this technique to calculate your profitability over-time by just looking at your closed lots.

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  • What about when you buy GPB with some of those EUR?
    – RonJohn
    Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 17:56
  • The realized forex price, or the unrealized current mark-to-market forex price, doesn't net rollover interest paid or received. To produce a perfect result, just from the currency prices, would require a basis adjustment. Well, a forex account might have daily statements with the rollover output separately.
    – S Spring
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 1:59

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