IC Markets
Drawdown in Forex Trading

Drawdown in Forex Trading

Mark Fodor
Written by
Mark Fodor
Jul 2023

For a successful forex trader, grasping essential terms such as 'drawdown' is crucial in their trading career. This article thoroughly delves into drawdown in forex trading, why it matters, and how it can be managed effectively by a forex broker or trader. By dissecting the concept of drawdown and maximum drawdown, you will understand that drawdown is the difference between account equity and a large drawdown. With meticulous analysis and wise strategies, it's possible to transform the experience of a drawdown into a resourceful tool for successful forex trading. It is also worth noting that during a large drawdown, some traders might stop trading. However, knowing how to set a maximum drawdown limit can help traders to trade forex more confidently and manage their equity wisely.

Understanding Forex Drawdown

Before you can navigate the ebbs and flows of Forex markets, you need to understand drawdown. In its most basic sense, drawdown is the decrease in your trading capital after a series of losing trades. It's usually measured as the distance from your account's peak value to a subsequent trough, expressed as a percentage. For instance, if your account's value peaked at $10,000 but dropped to $8,000 due to unsuccessful trades, you experienced a 20% drawdown.

The Importance of Drawdown in Trading

Drawdown's significance lies in its potential for assessing risk. Essentially, a high drawdown implies a higher risk taken by the trader, whereas a low drawdown suggests a more conservative approach. Knowing your drawdown can also help gauge the efficiency of your trading strategy. If your strategy continually leads to high drawdowns, it might be a signal that you need to reassess your methods.

Calculating Drawdown in Forex

To calculate drawdown, we must delve into the specifics of the trader's account history, pinpointing the relative peaks and troughs in capital. Understanding the formula and process for calculating drawdown can provide traders with the ability to assess their past performance and potential risks in their trading strategies. 

In its simplest form, drawdown is calculated by identifying a relative peak in trading capital and then finding the subsequent relative trough. After determining these two points, the calculation is as follows: 

  1. Find the difference between the peak and the trough.
  2. Divide the resulting figure by the highest value (the peak).
  3. Multiply the quotient by 100 to express the drawdown as a percentage.

For example, if the peak value of your account is $10,000, and it subsequently falls to $8,000, your drawdown would be 20%. Here's how you'd calculate that:

  1. Subtract the trough from the peak: $10,000 - $8,000 = $2,000
  2. Divide this difference by the peak: $2,000 / $10,000 = 0.2
  3. Multiply by 100 to get a percentage: 0.2 * 100 = 20%

This drawdown percentage gives you a clear picture of how much you've lost from your peak, providing a standardized way of comparing drawdowns across different timeframes or trading strategies.

The Concept of Maximum Drawdown

Maximum Drawdown represents the most significant drop in the value of your trading account from its peak over a certain period. In other words, it's the worst historical loss that you've endured before a new peak is achieved. This measurement plays a crucial role in understanding the maximum loss that your account could sustain.

When analyzing your trading performance, the max drawdown is an invaluable metric. It gives an honest overview of the possible downside and the level of risk involved in your trading strategy. A lower max drawdown is usually preferred as it indicates less loss in capital and, potentially, a more risk-averse strategy. Conversely, a high max drawdown might suggest a more aggressive, and possibly riskier, trading approach.

Importantly, a trader should be financially and mentally prepared for their max drawdown to be exceeded in the future, as market conditions and trade performance can fluctuate. Effective risk management strategies can aid in limiting max drawdown and maintaining a healthy trading account balance.

Exploring Relative Type of Drawdown

Relative drawdown is another key concept in risk management for Forex trading. It calculates the largest drop from a peak to a trough over a specific period, relative to the peak. This measurement helps traders understand how their current losses compare to their initial capital or the highest point in their trading account.

Unlike max drawdown, which only considers the absolute loss, the relative drawdown gives you a percentage. This percentage reflects the extent of the drop in relation to the highest point. For example, if you started with $10,000, and the value of your account drops to $8,000, your relative drawdown is 20%.

This relative figure allows for a more standardized comparison of risk across different trading systems or periods. Additionally, it provides an understanding of the proportion of your capital that has been lost, which could be a critical factor in determining if or when to adjust your trading strategy.

Drawdown Meter

Both the max drawdown and relative drawdown are essential tools for gauging the risk associated with your trading strategy. They provide different perspectives on loss and can help you make informed decisions about the potential adjustments needed to optimize your Forex trading approach.

Forex Strategies to Control a Drawdown

Drawdowns are inevitable in Forex trading. But with careful management, you can minimize their impact and maintain a healthy trading account. Here are a few strategies:

Risk Management

This is the most effective way to control drawdown. By only risking a small percentage of your trading account on each trade (typically 1-2%), you can limit your losses.

Diversify Your Trades

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Trading a variety of currency pairs can help spread the risk.

Use Stop-Loss Orders

A stop-loss order can limit potential losses on an unfavorable trade by closing it when the price reaches a specific level.

Develop a Solid Trading Plan

A robust trading plan based on careful analysis and proven strategies can help maintain consistent profits and reduce drawdown.

Remember, the goal isn't to eliminate drawdown entirely but to manage it effectively. This ensures that when losses occur (and they will), they won't completely devastate your account.

Forex Drawdown: A Real World Example of a Losing Streak

Let's say you have a trading capital of $10,000. You decide to trade the GBP/JPY pair because you see a potential opportunity.

On Monday, you open a long position, expecting the GBP to appreciate against the JPY. However, due to unexpected news from the UK, GBP loses its value against JPY. The position you opened goes into loss, and by the end of the day, your trading account decreases to $9,500. This represents a drawdown of 5% on your initial capital.

On Tuesday, you decide to hold onto your position, hoping the market will reverse. However, additional unfavorable news causes GBP to fall further against JPY. At the end of the day, your account now stands at $8,500. The drawdown on your account is now 15% from your initial capital.

On Wednesday, the market finally starts to reverse, and GBP starts to appreciate against JPY. Your account balance goes up to $9,000, meaning you're still in a 10% drawdown from your initial capital.

On Thursday, the market continues in your favor, and your account balance increases to $9,800. You're now at a 2% drawdown.

Finally, on Friday, the market moves even more in your favor, and your account balance recovers to $10,000, thereby effectively eliminating the drawdown.

This example illustrates how drawdowns reflect the decrease in a trader's capital due to a series of losing trades. It's also evident that the drawdown can change quickly as the market conditions change. This example reinforces the importance of good risk management strategies and careful trading decisions in mitigating significant drawdowns and preserving your trading capital.


What does 'experience a drawdown' mean in forex trading?
To experience a drawdown refers to the reduction in equity value in your trading portfolio after a series of losing trades. It's an inevitable part of trading.

How can I learn from a drawdown?
A drawdown can be an important learning opportunity. It helps to sharpen your trading skills and gain insight into your trading strategy's performance, which can result in improved overall trading success.

When should I start trading after suffering a drawdown?
It depends on the severity of the drawdown and the health of your trading portfolio. Some traders may need to stop trading for the rest of the day to reassess their strategy and control the drawdown. It's crucial to avoid emotional trading after a significant loss.

How does drawdown relate to the health of my trading account?
Drawdown is an indicator of the health of your trading account. A large or frequent drawdown can suggest issues with your trading strategy or risk management practices. 

How can I set a drawdown level for my trading activity?
Setting a drawdown level involves determining the maximum drawdown percentage you're willing to risk for each particular trade or over a trading period. It's a crucial part of successful trading and can help control a forex drawdown.

How does the concept of relative drawdown differ?
Relative drawdown is the difference between a peak in account equity and a subsequent trough, expressed as a percentage of the peak. It measures the largest loss your currency trading account faces from its peak, considering the performance of a trading strategy.

How can I reduce drawdown risk?
One way to reduce drawdown is to diversify your trading portfolio across different types of forex and use prudent risk management techniques. Calculating the drawdown regularly also helps to monitor the health of your trading portfolio.

How is drawdown applied in forex trading?
In forex trading, a drawdown can be applied to measure trading losses from a particular trade or over a trading period. The drawdown percentage can indicate the riskiness of your trading strategy, which is an essential part of forex trading.