Dr. Duke's Blog


Do you know any trading coaches who publish the results of their trades daily, as the trade progresses? Dr. Duke analyzes the market and reviews the progress of his iron condor spreads in the Flying With The Condor™ service each day in this blog. If you have questions about any of the trades, Ask Dr. Duke.

The Flying With The Condor™ account gained 39% in 2011, while the S&P 500 traded unchanged and +19% in 2012, again beating the S&P 500 at +14%. In 2013  the Flying With The Condor™service came in at a gain of 13.3%, but the S&P 500 was up 30%. We recently closed the February condor for a gain of 7%, bringing our 2014 performance to -0.3%, as compared to the S&P 500 that is down almost 6%. Download our track record for the details.

Dr. Duke practices what he preaches! You are entering the "No Hype Zone"!

The Bulls Come Roaring Back
Written by Dr. Duke   
Thursday, 23 October 2014 14:50

The Canadian terrorism scare didn't last long. The bulls were buying with both hands as the market opened this morning. Apparently, the "buy the dip" strategy is on again. SPX gained $24 today, closing at $1951. RUT gained $20 to close at $1116. This puts SPX solidly above its 200 dma at $1908; the bulls are once again in charge of this market. SPX spurted upward at the open this morning and traded somewhat higher in the early afternoon, but then pulled back to close near where it was about an hour after the open. The VIX dropped off another point and a third to close at 16.5%. Trading volume was down with 2.2 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading today. Trading volume was unchanged on the NYSE and down 2% on NASDAQ.

The report of initial unemployment claims came in at 283k, up from last week's 266k. Continuing claims fell by thirty eight thousand to 2.35 million.

As volatility unwinds and SPX trades higher, the put spreads remaining in my November iron condor position are moving into the black once again, now up about 5%. If the bulls slow down, I might add some new call spreads, but that doesn't look likely.

Maybe it's time to start working that list of bullish stock candidates?

Maybe Not
Written by Dr. Duke   
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 15:31

Yesterday, I titled my blog, "Is It Safe To Come Out Now?", and today I answer myself (I talk to myself all the time). One could blame today's weakness on the terrorist attacks in Canada. But some analysts were expecting a continuation of the bearish down trend or were at least expecting a test of the support levels before heading higher. Today's drop satisfies both groups. SPX opened and traded higher this morning until the terrorist news hit the wires. SPX closed the day down $14 at $1927. RUT traded down $16 to $1097. The VIX lost about two and a half points yesterday, but gained almost two points back today. It remains a nervous market. Trading volume was flat to slightly down with 2.4 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading. Trading on the NYSE dropped 1% and trading volume on NASDAQ was unchanged.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) reported a slight increase of 0.1% for September, up from the 0.2% decline in August.

Both the SPX and RUT traded higher this morning before the terrorist attack news hit, so I am less concerned about this pull back. RUT's price action formed a bearish engulfing candlestick, known as an outside day in bar charts. By itself, that is a bearish reversal signal, but requires confirmation.

The bottom line is this: this recent market weakness is purely technical in nature. The markets became a bit frothy and now that is being corrected. The economic data and the earnings announcements thus far are not painting a bearish picture. I continue to think that traders are very nervous because of the Fed involvement in the markets; it is unprecedented and therefore makes traders nervous. It is hard to predict the future when you have no history with which to judge the present situation. That Fed presence and its unwinding, coupled with institutions sitting on gains from the last two years, make for an itchy trigger finger.

Is It Safe To Come Out Now?
Written by Dr. Duke   
Tuesday, 21 October 2014 14:22

The bulls were clearly in charge today, with the S&P 500 Index gaining $37 to close at $1941.28. To make it even more positive, SPX opened $5 higher this morning at $1909 from yesterday's close at $1904. We call this a gap up, and it is generally regarded as very bullish. Trading volume was also higher today with 2.5 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading. Trading volume rose 14% on the NYSE, but was only up a modest 2% on NASDAQ. Unlike recent months, RUT has also jumped on this bull's bandwagon, gaining $18 to close at $1113. Volatility contracted again today with the VIX losing two and a half points to close at 16.1%. So all signs are indicating a return to the bull market trend. What a turnaround from last Wednesday!

Today was another light day for economic data. Existing home sales came in at an annualized rate of 5.17 million for September, up from last month's 5.05M. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) reports tomorrow, but that normally isn't a market moving event.

As I wrote yesterday, traders expect prices to retest a support level after bouncing, so I have been concerned that the markets might take another plunge before resuming the bullish trend. The markets have simply headed straight up since last Wednesday - a remarkable run. Maybe we have seen the end of this correction. However, I remain on alert. I still smell the singed hair from last week. My hedges worked, but that was still scary.

Why Am I So Nervous?
Written by Dr. Duke   
Monday, 20 October 2014 17:30

SPX has now traded higher for three consecutive days following the severe downdraft last Wednesday. SPX closed today at $1904, up $17. RUT also traded higher, gaining $13 to close at $1095. VIX is now back down to 18.6%, losing over three points today. But I remain nervous. This market has been trading nervously for the past two years. Look back at the number of sudden drops over a week of trading sessions, only to be followed by a recovery straight up over just a few days. At least we had the fiscal cliff concerns in January of last year. I'm not sure what is causing this market to be so nervous. But the fact of the matter is that it doesn't take much to start a selling spree. So I am cautious.

Trading volume fell off from expiration Friday, but that decline is also evidence of some calming after last week's panic. Trading in the S&P 500 stocks dropped to 2.1 billion shares. Trading declined 26% on the NYSE and dropped 24% on NASDAQ.

My November iron condor on SPX is back to break-even and will continue to move into the black as volatility contracts. Those puts are now $80 OTM, but I still worry. One of the things that concerns me is a retest of support. Normally, when a stock or index declines and then appears to bounce back higher, it trades back down and tests that support level before trading higher. But it is true that the SPX hasn't displayed that behavior with the rapid pull backs of the past couple of years. So maybe it will just trade higher and not look back. One thing's for sure - this isn't a time to take my eye off the ball.

Is the Correction Over?
Written by Dr. Duke   
Friday, 17 October 2014 16:22

The S&P futures were up double digits in positive territory as I checked them first thing this morning - almost the opposite of Wednesday morning. SPX tacked on $24 to close at $1887, but RUT lost $4 to close at $1082. Hmmm... That worries me a bit. RUT started this bounce back earlier this week. Maybe we aren't out of the woods just yet. Take a look back at the fall of 2011 on your favorite charting service (I like StockCharts.com). SPX hit bottom on August 8th with a close of $1119; for the next 3 days, SPX traded up and down, repeatedly testing that support level. Then it rose and one might have concluded all was well. But it retested support with a close at $1124 on August 19th. And, then a month later on September 22nd, it closed at $1130. On October 3rd, SPX dipped down and closed at $1099 before it finally began its climb higher. Wednesday's plunge was scary, and we are all anxious to say the boogyman is gone, but he may be awaiting a sequel - remember Michael in Halloween? My point is simply this; don't let your guard down.

Volatility backed off by over three points with the VIX closing at 22%, but that is still a relatively high number. Trading volume also fell off a bit with 2.9 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading today - again, volume pulled back, but it is still well above average. Trading volume dropped 12% on the NYSE and decreased 14% on NASDAQ.

Housing starts came in at annualized rates of 1017k for September and building permits matched that with 1018k. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey reported at 86.4 for October, up a bit from last month's 84.6.

I am glad to see this week end, and I doubt that I am alone. Enjoy your weekend and rejuvenate. This correction may have some life left in it. But there is no need worrying about that until Monday.

When Does a Correction Become a Crash?
Written by Dr. Duke   
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 14:48

The S&P futures were down about $30 when I first looked at them this morning. SPX opened at $1874, which was surprisingly only a couple of dollars lower than yesterday's close, but then the wild ride began. SPX dropped about $36 in the next few minutes, appeared to recover but then began a slow decline to its low for the day at $1821 around 1:30 pm ET. The buying dominated the rest of the day's trading with SPX closing at $1862, down $15. It is surprising to see that SPX only lost $15 when all of the dust settled. RUT actually closed with a gain of $11 at $1072. RUT's chart seems to suggest it is forming a bottom around $1050; you have to go back to the pull back in October of 2013 to match that price. RUT's weakness led this market down. Is RUT leading the bounce?

As expected in a market like we had today, VIX spiked up over 31%, but settled down to close at 26.2%. Trading volume shot through the roof with over four billion shares of the S&P 500 trading today. Trading volume rose 25% on the NYSE and rose 24% on NASDAQ. Is this a sign of the classic "capitulation"?

The minutes from the last FOMC meeting were released this afternoon. Maybe that led to the buying we saw after 2 pm ET. Retail sales declined 0.3% in September , a big change from the 0.6% increase in August. PPI was flat last month and reported a decline of 0.1% for September. The Empire manufacturing survey came in at 6.2 for October, a dramatic shift downward from last month's 27.5 - this almost looks like a data error.

At the bottom of the market this afternoon, my put hedges were doing their job and my SPX Nov condor position was at break-even. But we have some spurious prices posted at the close for SPX, so don't be surprised if your broker statement looks a bit weird. My Nov SPX condor is positioned at 1810/1820 and 2090/2100. The SPX Nov 2090 calls were posted with a closing ask price of $9.60. So my call spread is being shown as losing $370 per contract! That short call is $228 OTM!!

What a day!

Signs of Hope?
Written by Dr. Duke   
Tuesday, 14 October 2014 15:20

After yesterday afternoon's severe sell-off, I was surprised to see SPX open in positive ground this morning and then trade up as high as $1899 by noon today, but then the bears came back and started driving it lower. It looked like another repeat of yesterday's trading action. SPX hit its low for the day just thirty minutes before the close. But unlike yesterday, SPX bounced weakly during those last few minutes and avoided another close at the lows of the day. SPX closed at $1878, for a gain of $3. RUT traded more strongly, gaining $12 to close at $1062. The VIX dropped off almost two points to 22.8%. We are far from being out of the woods, but there were some encouraging signs in the trading action today.

Trading volume increased a bit today with 3.0 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading today. Trading volume rose 6% on the NYSE and increased 1% on NASDAQ.

There were no significant economic reports today, but the reasonably positive earnings announcements from the big banks (JPM, C, and WFC) were thought to have contributed to the morning's bullish price action. Goldman Sachs will report Thursday evening.

I was annoyed to see the market bounce back so strongly this morning since I had hedged my November position late yesterday. But that is the nature of the trading game. I compromised and removed half of my hedging options. I was pleased with that compromise as the market traded off this afternoon. These hedge options are costing me money, but hopefully they will allow me to salvage some gains from the November condor position on SPX. I have begun to nibble (emphasis on nibble) at some bullish trades today. Logic tells me we should be near the bottom - but logic is overrated in this game.

The Baby Fell Out of Bed
Written by Dr. Duke   
Monday, 13 October 2014 15:56

The markets seemed reasonably normal this morning. In fact, at one point, RUT was actually up several dollars and outperforming SPX. That seemed positive, but that all changed around 2 pm ET. SPX traded down hard for the last two hours, closing at its low for the day, $1875, down $31. RUT didn't fare as badly, trading down $4 to close at $1049. Trading volume declined from Friday with 2.8 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading. Trading volume dropped 1% on the NYSE and decreased 12% on NASDAQ. Volatility spiked up over three points with the VIX closing at 24.6%.

I think it is safe to say that the "buy the dip" crowd have been flushed out of the market - or they are in a lot of pain. There was no economic data to account for this afternoon's rout. Most analysts attributed it to SPX trading below the 200 dma and triggering a number of sell orders. SPX has not broken the 200 dma in about two years.

My Nov 1810/1820 put spreads are far OTM, but those spreads aren't nearly as safe as as I once thought. I hedged the position with Dec puts today, and may close the put spreads soon if this continues. My hedge puts gained 15% just in the last hour of trading today. That helped ease the pressure on the Nov iron condor position.

It is hard to predict what event, if any, may kick in support for this market. Since it is difficult to point to the impetus for the collapse, it is equally difficult to predict what may end the bloodshed.

Presumably, you have already hedged your positions or closed them out as appropriate; now we wait out the storm.

Are We There Yet?
Written by Dr. Duke   
Friday, 10 October 2014 16:05

All of us parents know this question well - it happens on every trip in the car greater than twenty minutes. I thought of that question this afternoon as I watched this market drop farther yet.

You take your financial life in your hands when you walk away from this market for the last two hours of the day - sometimes it runs up huge; sometimes it drops like a rock. Today was the latter. SPX opened the day down just a touch and traded largely sideways. The VIX pulled back; everything appeared serene. It had me thinking that it's slowing; maybe the worst is over. But then SPX lost over twenty points in the last two hours of trading. SPX closed at $1906, down $22. RUT also closed down at $1053, down $15. The VIX popped up over two points to 21.2%. After trading as high as $1937 this morning, SPX closed at its low for the day - very bearish. Trading volume spiked upward, underscoring the bearish move. Over three billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks traded today; trading increased 3% on the NYSE and jumped 24% on NASDAQ.

If you are looking for the dire economic report that triggered this latest sell-off, forget it. There isn't one. As you know, I have been critical of this very weak economic recovery that I consider largely government induced. But the economy isn't rolling over into a recession. I'm unsure what's driving this decline; in these situations, all traders become technical traders. Fundamentals just don't explain it.

This market almost suckered me into selling some November put spreads today. Fortunately, I decided to give it more time to show its true character. This has been a very tough week in the markets. Traders need to be treated for whiplash.

I'm taking my girlfriend to dinner and a movie, leaving the market behind.

My Head Is Swimming
Written by Dr. Duke   
Thursday, 09 October 2014 15:49

I don't think I am alone in being bewildered by this market. I feel like a mouse in the middle of a sumo wrestling match. Today SPX lost $41 to close at $1928 and RUT traded down $29 to $1068. Let's review: SPX traded down $30 on Tuesday, then it traded up $34 on Wednesday. then we lost $41 today. "Good grief", said Charlie Brown. I'm not sure anyone has a good answer for it, but the facts are that more one percent moves in the stock market occur in October than any other month. But I think recent markets are setting records for the huge whipsaws back and forth. Thirty and forty dollar moves on the S&P 500 back to back, and in opposite directions, are largely unprecedented. This market is rattling even the institutional traders. Over 2.6 billion shares of the S&P 500 traded today. But just to keep the data bewildering, trading volume was down 2% on the NYSE and trading on NASDAQ dropped 9%.

The number of initial unemployment claims reported today at 287k, flat from last week's 288k. Continuing unemployment claims were down slightly at 2.38 million, up from 2.40 million.

I took the opportunity to close my remaining SPX Oct 2080/2090 call spreads for five cents. This closes the October position for a gain of 8.2%. I am freeing up cash for a new November position. Our current November trade is doing well, but I expect we will close it early some time after this market bounces. When we see the market bounce (that will be a risky call, given the price volatility), I will sell more November put spreads. Our current November put spreads are over one hundred dollars OTM.

Time to relax and call it a day...

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