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Trading started off in the red this morning and never varied from that pace. The Russell 2000 Index of small caps was particularly hard hit today, dropping over $12 to close at $580. Meanwhile, the SPX dropped  a similar amount in absolute dollar terms, $11.27, but about half as much in percentage terms, to close at $1087. The dollar's strength again appears to be the impetus behind today's stock market weakness. Unemployment claims numbers were actually a little better than expected, but the federal deficit hit a new high at $176 billion and analysts were expecting $150 billion.

My Dec iron condor now stands at a P/L of -$20, delta = -$5 and theta = +$88. I still have the Jan $630 call hedges in place but the delta of the Dec $630 calls has dropped back to 16, so I may sell those call hedges tomorrow unless the market rebounds. The volatility of this market makes it very challenging to trade these delta neutral strategies.

The markets opened up strongly this morning; RUT ran to $597 before pulling back to close at $593 at the end of the day (up almost $6). The SPX actually broke through resistance at $1100 to $1105 but couldn't hold it and closed at $1098.51. As in recent markets, the stock trading was tied inversely to the strength of the dollar. The dollar traded lower this morning, but then strengthened. Gold hit a new record high of $1118/oz before pulling back.

My Dec iron condor on RUT now stands at a P/L of -$350 with delta = -$25 and theta = +$87. I have clipped a shot of this position's risk/reward chart below. Note the effect of the Jan $630 call hedges; the red line is today's risk/reward curve - follow it with increasing price gains on RUT. Do you see how this hedge allows me to stay with this position and allow RUT to run as high as $620-$630 and constrain my position losses to about $2000? The advantage of this type of adjustment is giving the market time to turn back or trade sideways and therefore a chance to salvage my position. So we wait and see.

Trading started in positive territory this morning, but within an hour, it had turned negative. The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) traded downward most of the day and recovered some during the last hour of trading but closed down at $587, just above the support level broken yesterday. The S&P 500 (SPX) also traded up initially and then downward all day. But the SPX regained all of its losses in the last hour to close virtually unchanged at $1093, just below the strong resistance at $1100.

My Dec iron condor was helped somewhat by the modest pullback on RUT to close with a P/L of -$10, delta = -$13 and theta = +$77. I still need the protection of the Jan $630 calls since my Dec $630 calls still have a delta of 20. It may prove difficult for SPX to break $1100 and RUT to break the resistance at $625 set with the double top in September and October. The markets may well trade in this range for a while. But this market has been proving everyone wrong of late, so be sure your contingency orders are in place.

News that the G-20 and Treasury Secretary Gaithner believe economic stimulus should be continued sent the dollar down and gold and stocks up today. Today's strong run upward stood in sharp contrast to the doldrums in the markets Friday. RUT ran nearly $12 to close at $592 while the SPX closed at $1093, up almost $24. RUT convincingly broke through resistance at $585 while the SPX is nearly at the $1100 level it could not break through a few weeks ago. Trading volume was up across the board, so today's move appears to be a convincing end to the correction that began in mid October.

My contingency orders kicked in early this morning to purchase two Jan $630 calls at $11.00. Before that adjustment, my Dec condor stood at a P/L of -$460, delta = -$76 and theta = + $112. At the close, the position was at -$250, delta = -$17 and theta = +$75. The adjustment protected the overall position P/L and cut delta way back, while not sacrificing too much theta. The theta/delta ratio is actually stronger after the adjustment. Now we wait to see if SPX can break $1100 - that would be very bullish.

The unemployment report of 10.2% was greater than the 9.9% expected and caused a minor pullback in the markets at the open, but buyers quickly pulled it back up. Although the market basically traded sideways all day, I think this shows considerable buying strength for this market. RUT closed essentially unchanged at $580 and the SPX closed up about $3 at $1069.

My Dec iron condor on RUT now stands at a P/L of -$100, a position delta of -$42 and a position theta of +$103 - solid greeks with theta/delta > 2:1. When the market turned bullish early this morning, I entered a contingency order to buy protective Jan $630 calls if RUT broke through resistance at $580-$585 (I set the trigger at $587). Because of my aggressive rolling down of the call spreads early this week, I now have a fairly aggressive iron condor position at $500/$510 and $630/$640. We still have a lot of time left in this trade at 41 days. Stay tuned.

CSCO's strong earnings report appeared to energize the market and it opened strong this morning but the surprise (to me at least) was that it continued its steady upward march all day long.  I expected some traders to take profits toward the end of the session, given the upcoming unemployment report in the morning, but everyone appears confident that unemployment will rise only a little to 9.9% and that is apparently considered further confirmation that the worst is behind us. RUT ran up $18 to close at $581 while the SPX closed at $1067, up a little over $20. RUT is just entering a resistance level at about $580 to $585 while the SPX will be running into resistance at about $1070. If they break those levels tomorrow, then this correction may be over; if you look at the peak to trough move on the SPX, it was about 6%. Most market technicians would expect a move of about 10% for the normal correction...

My Dec $510 puts are out of the woods for now with a delta at 15. However, I may regret aggressively having rolled my call spreads down to 630/640 on Monday. The $630 strike feels a little too close after today's $18 run upward. A few days makes a big difference in this volatile market. My Dec RUT iron condor now stands at -$560, delta = -$43, and theta = +$104. Tomorrow should be interesting...

Today's markets spent most of the day in slightly positive territory, became rather choppy after the FOMC announcement, and then sold off in the last 30 minutes. The FOMC basically gave the expected announcement, i.e., that interest rates will remain low for "an extended period" to stimulate the economy. That seemed pretty positive to me, but it apparently stimulated some significant volatility in the afternoon trading.

RUT closed down about $7 to $563 while the SPX closed in positive territory at $1047. I decided to sell the Jan $510 puts hedging my Dec put spreads at $12.20 this morning, resulting in a $100 loss. The late afternoon sell-off has my short put spreads back in a dangerous area, so I will be watchful until this market trades back up a bit or at least treads water for a few days. The Greeks of the Dec iron condor are pretty strong at a position delta of -$6 and position theta of +$99.

The "earnings season" thus far does not seem to be giving the market participants much comfort. So we may trade in this basically choppy, sideways to slightly downward fashion for a while. But who really knows? That is why you must have a system and follow your rules.

The market's indecision we observed yesterday continued with sideways, choppy trading. Some late session buying pushed the RUT and SPX into positive territory during the last hour of trading, but barely positive. RUT closed at $571 and the SPX closed at $1045. The broader market appears to lack clear direction; a large number of companies are reporting earnings this evening; that may push the market one way or the other for tomorrow's open.

I still have the Jan $510 puts hedging my Dec iron condor. The Dec $510 puts have edged their delta back down to 19. This position is right at the tipping point. If RUT moves up from here, I will start to lose money on the hedge and will need to close it. However, a downward move in RUT will only result in very nominal losses due to the protection of the hedge position. The overall position stands at a P/L of +$70, delta = -$57 and theta = +$50. The beauty of a long hedge in the following month is that it provides strong delta protection but with minimal negative impact on our position theta.This gives you the patience to calmly watch the market and give it a chance to turn back upward or trade sideways from here; then you have salvaged a position that might have been closed otherwise. In the meantime, we simply trade our system in response to the market's moves - there is no need to predict the market's moves.

The markets opened this morning in positive territory, buoyed by some good economic and manufacturing reports. But that didn't last long and then the selling pulled the market down through most of the day before buyers came in and returned the major indexes closer to where they started the day. RUT ran up to about $570 and then down to $553 before closing almost unchanged at $562. The SPX  closed up about $7 at $1043. And all of this occurred in better than average trading volume. That tells me there is significant indecision in this market; neither the buyers nor the sellers dominated with conviction. But given the volatility of this market, that is likely to change tomorrow.

During the weakness this morning, I decided to roll my Dec 660/670 call spreads down to 630/640. I closed the 660/670 calls for $0.40, netting a gain of $1,100 (20 contracts). I opened 20 contracts of the 630/640 calls at about one standard deviation OTM for $1.20. This left my Dec iron condor on RUT at a P/L of $180, delta = -$50 and theta = +$43. I still have the two Jan $510 puts hedging the downside.

Yesterday's up day was apparently just a head-fake. The Chicago PMI and the consumer sentiment reports both beat expectations, but that wasn't enough for this market - the sellers went on a rampage. It reminds me of a few weeks ago when the bad news was ignored and the market continued to rally. RUT dropped over $17 to close at $563 while the SPX dropped almost $30 to close at $1036. The next area of support for RUT is around $548-$552 while support for SPX is around $1020.

I re-established my Jan $510 put hedge this morning (two contracts at $12.70). This left my Dec iron condor at the close with a P/L of -$20, delta = -$18 and theta = +$20. The adjustment puts gained over $500 today, minimizing the loss on my condor and also flattening the risk/reward curve down to about $520. This gives the market time to turn around or for us to further adjust or close our position without getting ourselves into a large loss.