Drawdown in Forex Explained

Drawdowns are a crucial concept in the world of investments, offering valuable insights into risk assessment and performance evaluation. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the definition of drawdowns and their associated risks and provide real-world examples to enhance your understanding.

A drawdown, in the context of investments, refers to the peak-to-trough decline that occurs within a specific time frame for an investment, trading account, or fund. This metric serves as a historical risk gauge for various investments, facilitates performance comparisons among funds, and monitors individual trading performance. Typically expressed as a percentage, drawdown measures the difference between the peak and the subsequent trough. For instance, if a trading account starts at $10,000, experiences a decline to $9,000, and then rebounds above $10,000, it has witnessed a 10% drawdown.

Understanding Drawdowns

A drawdown persists as long as the asset’s price remains below its previous peak. It’s important to note that a new trough cannot be established until a new peak is reached, making this method of tracking drawdowns highly informative. Drawdowns are especially useful in assessing the financial risk of an investment and are employed in the calculation of metrics like the Sterling ratios, which evaluate the reward-to-risk ratio of a security.

Drawdowns can also describe the negative portion of a stock’s return distribution, measuring the decline from its peak to its trough. For example, if a stock’s value drops from $100 to $50 before recovering to $100.01 or higher, the drawdown is $50 or 50% from the peak.

Stock Drawdowns

While stock volatility is often quantified using standard deviation, many investors, particularly retirees who rely on pension and retirement accounts, focus more on drawdowns. This emphasis arises from the concern of large drawdowns in volatile markets. Investors assess the maximum drawdown (MDD) of their investments to potentially avoid those with substantial historical drawdowns.

Risks of Drawdowns

Drawdowns pose a significant risk to investors, especially when considering the magnitude of the price increase required to recover from a drawdown. For instance, a 1% loss may seem minor, as it only necessitates a 1.01% gain to reach the previous peak. In contrast, a 20% drawdown demands a 25% return to achieve the previous high, while a 50% drawdown, as witnessed during the 2008-2009 Great Recession, requires a staggering 100% increase for recovery. Consequently, some investors opt to cut their losses and convert their positions into cash if drawdowns exceed 20%.

Assessment of Drawdowns

Mitigating drawdown risk typically involves diversifying one’s portfolio and understanding the expected recovery period. For individuals with long investment horizons, a drawdown limit of 20%, often recommended by financial advisors, can suffice. However, retirees, who may have limited time for their portfolios to recover before withdrawing funds, need to be especially cautious. Diversifying across various asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, precious metals, commodities, and cash instruments, can offer protection against drawdowns, as different asset classes respond differently to market conditions.

Time to Recover a Drawdown

Apart from the extent of drawdowns, the time required for recovery is also a crucial risk factor. Some investments bounce back swiftly from a drawdown, while others take years. Therefore, drawdowns should be considered in the context of an investment’s historical recovery period.

Real-World Example of a Drawdown

To illustrate drawdowns in practice, let’s consider a scenario where a trader purchases Apple (AAPL) stock at $100, sees it rise to $110 (peak), falls to $80 (trough), and then recovers above $110. In this case, the drawdown is 27.3%, calculated as ($30 ÷ $110) x 100. It’s important to note that a drawdown isn’t equivalent to a loss. While the drawdown is 27.3%, the unrealized loss for the trader at $80 is 20%, based on the purchase price of $100.

If the stock subsequently rallies to $120 (peak), then falls to $105 before recovering to $125, the new drawdown is 12.5%, calculated as ($15 ÷ $120).

Drawdown in Different Contexts

It’s worth noting that drawdown can have different meanings in other contexts. In the context of retirement, a retirement drawdown refers to the withdrawal of income during retirement, where retirees extract a portion of their savings to maintain their standard of living. This is often referred to as a drawdown percentage.

Additionally, the term “loan drawdown” pertains to the disbursement of funds from a lender to a borrower, such as in the case of a home loan or mortgage used for property purchase.


Understanding drawdowns is essential for investors seeking to navigate the intricacies of the investment world effectively. By comprehending what drawdowns signify and how they aid in risk assessment and investment comparison, individuals can make informed decisions and potentially minimize losses in their investment endeavours.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does drawdown function in the forex market?

Drawdown in the realm of forex trading encompasses the decline in a trader’s account equity from its peak to the lowest point within a specific time frame. It quantifies the percentage difference between the highest account balance and the lowest account balance during that time.

What constitutes a typical drawdown in forex trading?

Absolute drawdown illustrates the maximum loss experienced by a trader relative to their initial investment. In forex trading, a more effective trading strategy is associated with a smaller absolute drawdown. Accomplished and prosperous forex traders strive to limit their absolute drawdown to no more than 10% of their initial capital.

Is a minimal drawdown considered favourable?

Is there a preferred or acceptable drawdown percentage? While there’s no fixed answer, the goal is to keep it as low as possible. When drawdown becomes excessive, exceeding 25%, it often leads to demoralisation and may prompt traders to cease trading. Therefore, a heuristic rule suggests that a maximum drawdown of 25% can serve as a threshold.

What does drawdown risk entail?

At its core, drawdown risk gauges the duration required for a mutual fund or another investment to recover its losses after descending from a previous high point.

What constitutes a prudent drawdown?

Nevertheless, it is advisable for both investors and traders to maintain their drawdown below the 20% threshold. By setting a maximum drawdown limit of 20%, investors can approach the market with confidence and consistently make well-informed decisions that safeguard their capital over the long term.

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