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A margin is strictly the difference between the cost of an asset or investment and the amount that a lender of money is willing to advance for its purchase; or (and this is much the same thing) the amount of money a speculator puts down in futures dealings. Where a person wishes to buy, or speculate in a property he may not intend to take it up, but the margin or deposit is an earnest of his intentions. The term is particularly used regarding futures dealings in commodities or currencies. Dealings in margins occur when a speculator, having secured a certain quantity to be taken up in the future at a fixed price, sells the contract to another person. who pays only a competitive price for the margin.

Reference: The Penguin Business Dictionary, 3rd edt.