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Confidence in the economy continues to grow and feed the rally in the markets. The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) closed up at $522.02, surpassing the recent high of $520 on July 1, and closing in on the high of $535 set June 5. I began hedging my Aug iron butterfly at 440/490 and 510/560 by rolling one of the pairs of spreads up one strike to 450/500 and 520/570 (closing one contract of the call spreads and one contract of the put spreads and opening new spreads one strike upward). This moderated the delta somewhat to -$69 with theta = +$68. I am not optimistic that RUT will break this next resistance level, so I didn't roll more than one strike upward. If I am wrong, then I will either roll further upward or close the trade.

My Aug iron condor stands at a P/L of -$880 with a delta = -$61 and a positive theta of $44. Our Sept $530 calls are effectively holding our losses in check, but our theta position is deteriorating. If theta goes negative or RUT breaks $535, I will close this position for a loss.

Note that hedging our position does not turn the trade into a winner, but it holds our losses to a reasonable number (our goal with the condor is to hold our loss to less than the original credit of $4,000, and buy us time for the market to pull back).

Losses are a necessary part of trading; learning the techniques to control and minimize the loss allows you to stay in business.

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The market took off to the races today, buoyed by Intel's better than expected earnings announcement and favorable forecast for the third quarter. The FOMC minutes from June were released and the committee thinks the economy will be shrinking slower than previously expected - that's good news? The volatility of this market continues to amaze me. One day, it's doom and gloom and the next day everyone is optimistic and buying across the board. The RUT gapped open this morning and raced up over $19 to close at $515.64.

My iron butterfly is starting to feel the heat with a position delta of -$63 and theta = +$50; the break-even is $533. I set it up this way because we have resistance levels at $520 and $535.

My Aug condor is also feeling the strain. I purchased an additional Sept $530 call for $14.90 today. The position stands at a P/L of -$190, delta = -$59 and theta = +$50. Those September calls are minimizing our loss while enabling us to see if the RUT will break resistance at $520 and $535 before we "throw in the towel".

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Strength in the financial sector appeared to boost the entire market today. The S&P 500 and the Russell 2000 indexes bounced strongly off the support levels they were toying with for the past few sessions. RUT closed at $493.31. I will be watching the next levels of resistance on RUT around $520 and $535. I re-established the call spreads for my August iron condor this morning. I would have preferred the 540/550 strikes, but I have another position with long $540 calls, so I dropped down to the $530/$540 call spreads for $1.40 (or $2,800 for 20 contracts). As it turned out, the market continued up strongly all day and I hedged my position by buying 2 Sept $530 calls at $9.60 in the early afternoon. This hedge will hold my position loss to less than $1,000 up to around $525-$530 on the RUT. This buys me time to see if the RUT bounces off its resistance levels at $520 and $535 before I pull the plug on this trade. At the close, the iron condor position stood at a gain of $280, delta = -$15 and theta = +$95.

I also established a new iron butterfly position late in the trading day with the $440/$490 puts for $13.70 and the $510/$560 calls at $9.55, for a total credit of $6,975 on 3 contracts ($8,025 of capital at risk). I positioned this butterfly with some bullish bias (positive deltas) because the RUT bounced so strongly off support today. I will plan to be in this position for two weeks or less.

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Trading volume was low today; stock trading results were mixed with modest increases across all of the market indexes. RUT closed at $496.52, up $3.21. This market is still quite volatile and capable of large moves in either direction on the quirkiest of data points, so you must watch your positions carefully. But, in general, we are trading in a choppy, sideways market - ideal for delta neutral income generation options trading.

The iron butterfly I initiated yesterday is sitting essentially at break-even with position delta of -$16 and theta of +$76.

My Aug iron condor stands at a small profit at this point; by all measures this position should be in adjustment mode: the delta of the short $530 calls = 23 and the debit to close the calls stands at about double the original credit. Buying the two Sept $530 calls yesterday was the right move. It was $1,920 well spent for insurance. This buys us time to see if this market is going to continue upward or not.

As you can see from following these trades, three attributes of the delta neutral options trader are essential: 1) patience - much of the time you are just waiting for time decay, 2) specific rules for adjustments, and 3) the discipline to follow your rules.

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Trading today was choppy with mixed results; there were some bright spots in tech stocks, but otherwise, it was sideways to downward for most stocks. Overall trading volume was low; maybe traders are waiting to see what the earnings announcements look like next week. RUT is holding at the support levels of mid-May, closing at $480.98. I am still waiting for a strong day in the market to re-establish the call spreads of my Aug iron condor. That position now consists of 20 contracts of the Aug 420/430 put spreads and 1 contract of the Sept 430 puts. The position delta stands at +$50 while theta = $26. This position now stands at a net profit of $345; my options analysis software predicts I could tolerate a move down to about $460 and hold the position loss under $1,000. So we continue to wait and see if the markets break support and drop toward the March lows or meander sideways from here (a rally doesn't seem probable).