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Today's S&P quarterly rebalancing and quadruple witching options expiration stimulated a high volume trading day (over 2 billion shares traded on the NYSE) but the markets didn't really do much - mostly choppy, sideways trading. The Russell 2000 Index settled at $617.54 and closed today at $617.88. That translated to very little change for my Oct iron condor with a net P/L of -$1,631, position delta of -$25 and position theta of +$83. My Nov $630 call is hedging my remaining seven Oct 640/650 call spreads. If the RUT trades higher, I'll close or roll the remaining 640/650 calls; sideways or downward action may allow me to minimize the damage. Next week, I will start to look at establishing some November positions. A side note: RUT's implied volatility has been steadily declining since mid-June (as any of you who have been trading calendar spreads are painfully aware); it is now down to 27%, a 52 week low. That translates to my either having to accept smaller credits for my iron condors or making it necessary to choose strikes that are closer to the index price. Of course, if you position your strikes based on a standard deviation calculation, that includes that adjustment. But declining IV helps my wounded Oct iron condor.

Many market observers have been waiting for a pullback (me included) and even though the markets slowed a bit today, it wasn't much of a pullback. RUT closed down about $2 at $615.47, not much of a net change. SPX closed down about $3 at $1065.49. Pulling back to a support level in either index would require much larger price drops. If you look at the RUT chart over the past year, the nearest support level is around $585 to $590 (I don't believe in citing overly precise support and resistance levels as some do; the reality has a bit more "fuzziness" associated with it). Actually, after my mistake in not closing my Sept $620 calls earlier this week, I expected the RUT to drop a lot today - that had a certain perverse logic.

My October iron condor position remained unchanged today at a P/L of -$1,724, delta = -$20, and theta = +$83. My theta/delta ratio is strong. I still have 8 contracts of the $640/$650 calls that are in trouble, but the one long Nov $640 call is hedging that position well. My rolled $660 calls are in the "red zone" at a delta of 16, whereas my rolled short puts at $550 are fairly comfortable at a delta of 11. Further strong moves upward will force me to close the $640/$650 calls at a minimum and look for a reasonable credit at $680/$690, but we may be getting too close to expiration for that (rolling to the current $660/$670 may be too dangerous).

This market continues to amaze me. Nearly any technical indicator you may follow would suggest this market is severely overbought, but it just keeps making new highs. My trading today illustrates a common rookie mistake (to my embarrassment). I have been preoccupied with cleaning up the mess from the hackers' attack on my web site for the past few days. I should have closed the 620/630 call spreads in my Sept iron condor Monday or Tuesday, but I closed them first thing this morning, and gave back a lot of profit. The lesson here is to stay focused; I had become complacent, thinking my Sept condors were "in the bag" and then was distracted. Iron condors are dangerous animals and need to be treated with respect.

I closed 30 contracts of the Sept $620/$630 call spreads in the first hour of trading this morning for $0.72. I will allow my 10 contracts of $500/$510 puts and 20 contracts of $480/$490 put spreads to expire worthless. That will result in a net gain of $1,630 or 6.4% on capital at risk. I spent $340 on the put hedge early in the trade and $570 on the call hedge later in the trade; those are the "insurance" premiums. But the failure to close the call spreads earlier cost me at least $1,000.

I decided significant adjustments were in order for my Oct iron condors today. You may recall I have 15 contracts of the $460/$470 puts and 15 contracts of the $640/$650 calls with one Nov $640 call as up side hedge. Today I closed 7 of the $640/$650 call spreads for $2.50 (a loss of $1,120) and rolled them to $660/$670 for $1.05; I also closed all 15 of the $460/$470 puts for $0.20 (a gain of $750) and rolled them to $540/$550 for $0.70. I left the Nov $640 call as protection for the upside. This leaves my Oct position with a maximum potential gain of $2,385, delta = -$27 and theta = +$76. These are tough markets for delta neutral traders. You must stay on your toes and adjust promptly to remain in the game.

The markets began the day somewhat weak, but then seemed to slowly but steadily strengthen as the day went on. Traders took some confidence from the increases in the August PPI numbers - higher prices normally suggest more demand for goods. RUT closed at $605 and the SPX closed at $1053. Seven of the last eight trading sessions have been positive gainers - a rather impressive record.

My September iron condors are being squeezed on the topside; I am looking for the right opportunity to close the $620/$630 call spreads. The position stands at +$2,050, delta = -$244 and theta = +$1,418. That large delta reflects how close the index is to our short call strikes - truly alarming if we weren't so close to expiration. I added a Nov $640 call to my Oct iron condors today for $1,160. They now stand at a net loss of -$465, delta = -$53 and theta = +62. If the markets continue upward, I will add one more long Nov call.

As some of you know, my web site was hit by hackers last week and my blog has been incapacitated until earlier today. We closed the holes and are in the process of moving to a more secure hosting environment. I added one additional feature when bringing the blog back up. You can now click on the Comments link and add your comments or questions to the latest blog entry.

The markets started the day with weakness and traded sideways through much of the day. Then traders began buying and pushed stocks higher, forcing many short positions to cover late in the session, forcing prices even higher. RUT closed at $600, a new high for the year. My Sept iron condors now stand at a net gain of $2,550 with position delta = -$166 and theta = +$680 - huge theta! The delta of the Sept $620 calls is 9, slightly over one standard deviation OTM. Unless the RUT pulls back quite a bit, I will be closing the call spreads sometime before Thursday's close.

My October iron condors are near breakeven at -$95 for the overall position and position delta of -$80 and theta = +$71. The delta of the short $640 calls = 18. Both the theta/delta ratio having dropped below 1:1 and the short delta of 18 are dictating an adjustment. If the market continues higher tomorrow, I will be looking to buy at least one Nov $640 call.

The markets started the day on a positive note and the RUT and SPX traded up to their recent resistance levels, but then retreated after the Fed's Beige Book was released with virtually no positive news on the economy. But then the bulls tossed the Beige Book aside and drove the market into the bell with the RUT closing up over $10 to $586.40 and SPX closing at $1033.37. This leaves both indexes right at their resistance levels; it will be interesting to see if the bulls can drive through to higher highs.

My Sept iron condor (20 contracts of the 480/490 puts, 10 contracts of the 500/510 puts, and 30 contracts of the 620/630 calls) stands at a P/L of +$2,780, delta =-$76, and theta = +$240; theta is really gaining as we roll down to the last week of these options. The Oct iron condor (15 contracts of the 460/470 puts and 15 contracts of the 640/650 calls) has a P/L of +$400, delta =-$45, and theta = +$65. The Oct $640 calls stand right at one standard deviation OTM with a delta of 12. I will adjust this condor if the delta of this short call exceeds 17-18.

The markets continue to have a bias to the upside, although the pace has moderated significantly. The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) closed up at $576.38, nearing its resistance level of $580-$589, set the last week of August. The Standard and Poors 500 (SPX) closed at $1025.39, near its resistance level of $1035-$1039.

My Sept iron condors are in excellent shape as we wind down toward September expiration with P/L = +$3,210, delta = -$37, and theta = +$137. The Oct condors are much farther from expiration, but are in good shape with a P/L = +$625, delta = -$29, and theta = +$61.

I tried an experiment this holiday weekend. I recorded the closing prices for all of the options in my September and October condors on Friday and then adjusted for the RUT price change (delta) and IV change (vega) this morning and compared those adjusted prices to the market prices. If the market makers had completely adjusted their prices Friday for the three days of time decay, one would expect my adjusted prices to be high since I had not accounted for any time decay. As it turns out, it is about half and half (based on one rough set of data); it appears that most of the time decay was already taken out of about half of these options, but not all of the decay was accounted for in about half of the options. So the lesson is this: if you are establishing any positive theta positions before a long holiday weekend, put them on early Friday at the latest; Thursday is probably better. By Friday afternoon, much, but probably not all, of the time decay has already been factored in the option price.

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.