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The unemployment report surprised us with an increase to 9.7%, but this didn't faze the market. This market's resilience has surprised me over the past several sessions; it continues to shake off bad news and rally back from intra-day lows. RUT and SPX both closed up at $571 and $1016, respectively. However, the trading volume was low today going into the holiday weekend, so it is hard to have much confidence in one's conclusions here. Just reading the chart leads one to believe the dangers to delta neutral traders remain on the top side; however, I still have not seen much to make me optimistic about this economy. But the market doesn't agree with me. So I will continue to play what the market gives me, even while I am scratching my head.

My Sept iron condor stands at a P/L of +$2,740, delta = -$17, and theta = +$162 - excellent numbers. The Oct iron condor still has 41 days left in it, so the numbers aren't as pretty: P/L of +$550, delta = -$16, and theta = +$57. But they aren't bad. The theta/delta ratio is still very strong at 3.5.

With my positions sitting pretty, it will be easy to relax this holiday weekend. I hope you get to spend some quality time with family and friends.

The markets opened and traded down early today and then spent most of the day trading choppily and mostly sideways. But the bulls came to the floor in the last hour and pushed all of the major indexes higher. The Russell 2000 Index traded as low as $552 in the morning and closed at its high for the day, $562.49. The Standard and Poors 500 (SPX) traded in a similar pattern and closed within a quarter of its high for the day at $1003.24. Gold closed at a six month high of $998.

Early in the day, the talking heads attributed the sideways trading to the market waiting for the unemployment numbers tomorrow morning. If that was true, someone must have decided those numbers are going to look better than expected, given the strength of the buying late in the day. The patterns of trading this week seem to suggest a fundamentally sound market and just some healthy consolidation occurring. However, I think most market players are still a little on edge from the extreme volatility of the past year. So some surprise, like a big jump in the unemployment number tomorrow, might push this market off the cliff. However, in the absence of that panic scenario, my iron condors will continue to generate profit as we consolidate sideways. My condors are in excellent shape with the Sept position at a P/L of +$2,290, delta = +$7 and theta = +$191. The Oct condor closed at a P/L of +$160, delta = -$14 and theta = +$66. So now we watch for the unemployment number and, barring no surprises, we enjoy a long weekend of time decay.

The markets didn't do much of anything today. RUT closed down a couple of dollars to $556 - still holding at support around $550. The SPX closed down $3 to $995, still in its support area; look at the SPX chart for Aug 4-14 and see how it held in the range of $992 to $1012 for several days; that is the support level I'm watching. A strong breakout at higher volume below $990 would be of concern; otherwise, this market is just consolidating after a huge rally. And we may be seeing a bit of a slowdown before the holiday weekend.

My condors are loving this consolidation - delta stays neutral while positive time decay works in my favor. The Sept condor stands at a P/L of +$1920, delta = +$32, and theta = +$185, while the Oct position stands at a P/L of +$70, delta = -$9, and theta = +$63.

An old Wall Street saying is to "buy the rumor and sell the news". This morning's market saw favorable reports for the ISM Manufacturing Index, July construction spending, and pending home sales for July. But the market's favorable reaction didn't last long; by mid morning, all of the indexes were falling significantly. The rationale was that all of this good economic news was priced into the market in the recent rally, so profit taking ensued. The SPX closed at $998, near its long term support level of $1000, and RUT closed at $558, just above its $550 support level.

The downward moves of the past few days have been helpful for my iron condors. The Sept condor stands at a P/L of +$1,690, delta = +$17, and theta = +$199. So we are very close to delta neutral with theta decay generating about $200 per day. The Oct condor still has 44 days left in it and this market has left the RUT near the midpoint of this condor; normally, I would be looking to roll up or down one side or the other and take some profits here, but the increased IV has prevented that so far. Currently, the Oct condor stands at a P/L of +$70, delta = -$5, and theta = +$59. As long as the market doesn't "fall off the cliff", we will do nothing with these positions.

Significant drops overnight in the Asian markets caused concern for traders here and those concerns even affected the commodities markets, with oil trading below $70 and gold trading down to $954. Some strengthening occurred late in the day that pared losses, so the market appears to have an underlying strength. Trading volume was up somewhat, but still at low values historically. RUT closed down over $7 to $572.

My Sept iron condor now stands at a P/L of +$2100, delta = -$30 and theta = +$165. The Oct iron condor stands at a P/L of +$70, delta = -$29 and theta = +$59. All of my short strikes are more than 1.5 standard deviations OTM at this point. But, as we have seen repeatedly in this market, all of that can change pretty quickly.

Favorable earnings announcements and outlooks from Intel and Dell boosted the markets this morning, but the sellers came out of the woodwork and took their profits, driving the market down for most of the day. RUT closed down at $580 and the SPX closed down at $1029. It appears this market senses that all of the good news has already been priced into stocks and is prepared to take profits on any rally. However, the trading volume has been low, so drawing conclusions from the price movements this week may be dangerous. Perhaps the rally resumes after Labor Day when everyone returns to the floor.

This pullback has been a welcome relief for my condor positions. My Sept iron condor now stands at a profit of $1040, delta = -$103 and a theta of +$200. The short $620 calls are back to about one standard deviation OTM. The Oct iron condor now stands at a P/L of -$230, delta = -$39 and theta = +$57. Although the $460/$470 put spreads are now about two standard deviations OTM, I will resist the temptation to roll them up. That downside cushion is welcome as the market consolidates at the current levels.

Several favorable economic reports this morning failed to impress traders and the market slid in low volume trading. But buyers came in to push the market back up and in most cases had turned the red ink into positive gains by market closing. The DJIA closed at $9581; SPX closed up by $3 at $1031 and RUT closed essentially unchanged at $583.77. The RUT chart has been trading sideways between $572 and $588 for the past four or five sessions. The question on everyone's mind is whether it will suddenly break out up or down, or just trade sideways to consolidate for a while.

I had begun to take off my long call hedges yesterday, and during the market's weakness this morning, I removed the balance of the hedges from both my Sept and my Oct condors. This morning, the deltas of my short Sept $620 calls had dropped to 11 and the short Oct $640 calls had dropped to 15. I sold the Oct $620 calls at $7.50 and the Nov $640 calls at $8.90. As the market rebounded, the deltas of the short Sept $620 calls and the short Oct $640 calls had increased to 14 and 16, respectively.

My Sept condor now stands at a P/L of +$130, delta = -$151, and theta = +$210. This is a higher delta than I would like; I may end up buying long calls again to hedge this position. This volatile market has a way of jerking these positions around. At this point, I have spent a total of $911 on both put and call hedges for this condor, but a potential gain of $3,800 remains.

My Oct condor now stands at a P/L of -$650, delta = -$52, and theta = +$60. Removing the Nov call today cost me $200 (my insurance premium). Aggressively hedging my iron condors does reduce my potential gains, but protecting my downside on these positions is crucial to long term success.

Trading was choppy and basically sideways today on lower volume. A positive new home sales report this morning wasn't enough to push the market higher. The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) and The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) closed essentially unchanged at $584 and $1028, respectively.

I track the delta of the short options in my iron condors as one measure of my risk. The delta of the September $620 call dropped to 15 today and the Oct $640 call dropped to 17. A delta of 15 for the Sept $620 call was sufficient for me to sell one of my Oct $620 call hedges at $9.00. This leaves my Sept iron condor essentially at breakeven with a delta of -$80 and a theta of +$175. What those numbers tell us is that the RUT can move up by $1 tomorrow and my position will lose $80, but the passage of one day of time will gain me $175. So I want to manage the position to keep theta much higher than delta.

The Oct $640 call delta dropped to 17, but I left the Nov $640 call hedge in place on the Oct iron condor - a borderline call. This leaves the Oct iron condor with a P/L of -$710, delta = -$24 and theta = +$47. These delta and theta numbers are smaller than for the previous trade because my October position consists of 15 contracts whereas the Sept position has 30 contracts. The Oct position also has far more days to expiration and I have only been in the trade for about one week.

If you are into market forecasting, the question is whether we are going to trade sideways and consolidate for a few weeks or whether a correction is overdue after such a large and quick run upward. Regardless of my forecast, I must be careful to only trade what the market does today and not what I think it will do tomorrow.

Today's trading session was remarkably similar to the pattern yesterday with a rally in the morning and then a sell off to take back much, but not all of the gains. RUT closed up about $3 at $583.22 and SPX closed up about $2 at $1028. Bernanke's reappointment reassured Wall Street; they prefer the "devil they know" to the uncertainty of a new appointee. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index improved by more than was expected. Both of these positive notes appeared to overshadow the announcements from the White House and the CBO of even larger federal deficits than projected earlier. The country seems to have its head buried in the sand, hoping the financial crisis will go away.

During the market's strength this morning, I decided it was wise to add one more Oct $620 call for $10.10 to my Sept iron condor. At the market's close, this position stood at -$245, delta = -$62 and theta = +$149. This theta/delta ratio is healthy and gives us room for the market to move up further before radical surgery is required.

The Oct iron condor at 460/470 and 640/650 stood at -$605, delta = -$21 and theta = +$44. This position still has 51 days to expiration, so a theta/delta ratio of two or more is pretty good. We have one long Nov $640 call and no additional adjustment is required as yet.

The trading of late is settling into a routine: 1) I establish my positions and the market trades upward, 2) I don't think the market can continue to increase, but it does, so 3) I hedge my call spreads, and finally, 4) I close and/or roll my spreads - interesting times in the markets.

The major market indexes all closed very close to their opening today. After a strong run-up in the morning, the selling began in the afternoon and pulled everything back. RUT closed at $580.24 after being as high as $586.

The market's strength this morning caused me to adjust both of my condors for September and October. I bought two Oct $620 calls at $9.80 for the Sept condor and the position ended the day at a P/L = -$610, delta = -$82 and theta = +$187.

I bought one Nov $640 call at $10.90 for the Oct condor and that position ended the day at -$820, delta = -$17 and theta = +$47. The improvement to the position from a risk management standpoint is apparent from the risk/reward curves before and after the adjustment; see how the risk/reward curve for today (red) is more vertical after the adjustment, indicating a smaller loss if the market continues upward. It allows us to hold the position and see if the market pulls back before closing the position, i.e., it buys us time. As it turned out, I probably didn't need to make these adjustments, but it is better to err on the side of caution in this business.