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The markets opened this morning and traded pretty choppily (if there is such a word) most of the morning, but afternoon trading was generally steady and strong. RUT gained $11 to close at $591 while the SPX gained $15 to close at $1040. The talking heads were all nervous before the opening bell this morning, wondering if last week's action was the beginning of a significant correction of 10% or more. I don't know what tomorrow may bring, but today's market appeared pretty solid. It seems the bulls who brought the market this far are still largely bullish and are content to just pause and consolidate, rather than take their profits and go to cash.

Today's market was kind to my condors. The Oct condor now stands at a P/L of -$395, delta = +$46 and theta = +$123. I may scratch out a profit from Oct after all! The Oct call spreads are now over two standard deviations OTM and the Oct put spreads are about one and a half standard deviations OTM.

My Nov condor now stands at a P/L of +$800, delta = +$5 and theta = +$68. So the Nov position is looking good so far.

As many expected, the jobs report wasn't pretty, but the market didn't panic. From a technical perspective, support held and the underlying bullish sentiment still appears to be holding. RUT closed at $580, down about $4 and right at its support level set several weeks ago. Similarly, the SPX closed down at $1025, within the support range set in late August.

I sold my Nov $570 put for $21.30 ( a $30 loss). I purchased this put yesterday morning to protect against the slide ongoing in yesterday's market and as insurance for this morning's reaction to the jobs report. My Oct condor could still use the protection, but my short $550 put is now one standard deviation OTM and I don't have much profit left in this trade to pay for the insurance. When it appeared the RUT had settled at support, I took a risk and sold the long put. My Oct condor now stands at a P/L of -$1,415, position delta = +$72, and theta = +$116. A delta/theta ratio of about 1:1 is one of my "lines in the sand". This condor needs several days of sideways trading to salvage a profit. The Nov condor stands at a P/L of +$100, position delta = +$21, and theta = +$66. These Greeks look good, but we still have a lot of time exposure in this position. Next week appears to be a little less loaded with heavy economic reports so maybe we can catch a breather.

Sorry I am late with the blog. After I adjusted my positions this afternoon, I replaced the brakes on one of the cars and it took longer than I expected - a common characteristic of my home projects. Yesterday's market weakness spilled over into today; there were several economic reports, but nothing really dreadful. Many observers of the market are speculating that people are taking money off the table in anticipation of tomorrow's unemployment report. We'll see. One thing's for sure - it will be a volatile day.

RUT closed down over $20 at $584 and SPX dropped to $1030. Note how both indexes held up right at the support level set in late August. If they break that support level tomorrow, SPX could challenge the $1000 level and RUT's next support is around $575 and then $550.

About 12:30 this afternoon, I decided to adjust my Oct condor, partly because of today's downward move and partly in preparation for tomorrow. Before the adjustment, the position's delta stood at +$47 and theta was +$116. That wasn't too bad, but I decided to cut those deltas just in case this market gets ugly. I bought one Nov $520 put for $21.60. I chose that strike for the larger delta impact. At the close, delta = +$14 and theta = +$88. The Nov condor stands at a P/L of +$20, delta = +$19 and theta = +65. Tomorrow should be interesting.

An old friend of mine used to say, "he's as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers". That describes the current market climate pretty well. Before the market opened this morning the S&P futures were pointing to a positive opening, based on some positive earnings announcements and the upward revision of the second quarter GDP. And the market did open and trade up, but it didn't last long. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for Sept was released a few minutes after the market opened and stocks plummeted. The ADP payroll data showing the loss of 245k jobs in September didn't help - and this sets up anticipation for the jobs report Friday. It is hard to predict the direction, but a volatile reaction to the Friday jobs reports appears likely.

I don't know if many of you follow candlesticks as a technical indicator. I am not a "true believer" but I do think the interpretation of the basic candlestick pattern does have some merit. For example, today's candlestick on RUT and SPX wasn't quite what they call a "hanging man" - the tail was not nearly long enough. But think about what that pattern tells us about the "tug of war" in the marketplace. The bulls had control for a few minutes this morning and drove the prices up, but quickly were overrun by the bears and they took it down near the lows of last week. But then the bulls reasserted themselves and pulled it back and erased much of the loss before the day ended. My conclusions are: 1) the bulls remain the dominant force in this market; they have repeatedly come in the market late in the day and pulled this market back up. But 2) there are a lot of nervous traders in the market that are ready to turn bearish in a split second. So we have a bullish trend, but it is hard to predict what might cause a panic run to the exits that the bulls will be unable to contain.

My limping Oct condor is doing well, or at least as well as one can expect with a P/L of -$605, delta = +$11, and theta = +$112. I didn't point it out earlier, but when I rolled the calls and puts of this condor upward, I could have increased the size of the position and salvaged more profit; but that would have increased the risk of this position, and I am trying to show how a conservative trader can manage these iron condors. If the market continues trading sideways, this position will break into the black early next week, but I will have a minimal profit for October, if I salvage a profit at all. The Nov condor is faring well with a P/L of -$40, delta = -$25 and theta = +$78. Hang on for the ride...

The market opened strongly this morning, buoyed by a better than expected home price report, but 10 am brought a disappointing consumer confidence report and that threw cold water on the trading for the balance of the day. However, the good news is that the market found support rather easily and didn't give up any significant losses. So the underlying bullish trend appears intact. RUT closed down about $3 to $610 and the SPX closed down about $2 to close at $1061.

This sideways market action is great for my iron condors and they are almost unchanged from yesterday: my Oct condor stands at a P/L of -$680, delta = -$19 and theta = +$125; both short options are greater than one standard deviation OTM. The Nov condor stands at a P/L of -$140, delta = -$43 and theta = +$78. The short $680 call now stands just inside one standard deviation with a delta of 13. This trade still has 51 days until expiration so we cannot tolerate much of an upward move in RUT over the next week, or we will have to adjust our call spread position.

The markets traded up strongly this morning and then held pretty steady throughout the day. Financials and technology led the charge early and the financials ended the day up over 2.8%. However, trading volume was low due to Yom Kippur. Tomorrow brings the potential for higher trading volume, the consumer confidence report and the housing price index data. We'll see if that data dampens any of the merger euphoria that drove today's markets. A strong day like today on greater than average trading volume would be very bullish.

RUT closed at $613 and the SPX closed at $1063. My Oct condor stands at -$870, delta = -$23 and theta = +$129. The short $660 calls are now well outside of one standard deviation at $651. That is comforting but these feelings of confidence can be fleeting. My Nov condor stands at a P/L of -$240, delta = -$40 and theta = +$77. The delta of the $680 call is up to 14, nearing our adjustment zone. So for now, we just watch and wait.

Today was another dismal day in the markets, but the losses were relatively minor. RUT closed at $599, down about $3; SPX closed at $1044, down about $6. RUT was down as far as $596 before afternoon buying pared some of the losses. Let's consider RUT as we look at the "correction or consolidation" question (the same analysis holds for the S&P 500). If RUT were to drop back to its closest support level at about $585, that would represent a 6% drop from recent highs. Most market observers would say a 10% drop constitutes a correction. Of course, this isn't a science - maybe 6% will constitute the correction this time. But the conclusion is clear: so far, we have some minor consolidation going on, nothing too alarming. Next week is loaded with economic reports: consumer confidence, ADP payroll, final Q2 GDP, Chicago PMI, etc. Assuming no huge surprises in any of those reports, we will probably just muddle along here for a while.

My Oct condor now stands at P/L of -$1,100, delta = +$20 and theta = +102 (great theta/delta ratio, but unfortunately, this trade is badly wounded as it limps home). Our Nov condor is barely out of the gate but is in good shape so far with P/L of +$20, delta = -$13, and theta = +$68. The trades I publish here in my blog are in one $50k account, and it is worth noting that you can also manage a larger account containing several trades with the Greeks just as we have with these individual condors. This overall account stands at a P/L of -$685, delta = +$17, and theta = +$147. So we come to the same conclusion either way we look at the trades - everything is fine; no adjustments are necessary. We are just watching the time decay.

The sellers returned to the markets this morning and spurned the good news of lower initial unemployment claims and lower continuing unemployment claims. However, the decline in existing home sales took the market by surprise and that may have accelerated profit taking. RUT dropped about $12 to $602 and the SPX dropped about $10 to $1050; both indexes are well above their nearest support levels, so I think the bullish bias to this market continues. All of the major indexes traded down all morning, but then strengthened a bit in the last hour of trading.

I established the call spreads for my Nov iron condor this morning as the market was dropping, selling 20 contracts of the Nov 680/690 calls for $0.86. I then watched to see if the buyers would come back into the market, and when that happened late in the day, I sold 20 contracts of the 500/510 puts for $0.87. The range for plus or minus one standard deviation was $538 to $664. My resulting position is somewhat bearish with a delta = -$21 and +$75 in theta. IV is skewed with a value of about 39% for my 500/510 puts versus about 24% for the 680/690 calls. If I had placed my put spreads closer to one standard deviation OTM, my short puts would have been starting out with pretty high deltas around 15-16, meaning I would be adjusting the position with only a small move downward in RUT tomorrow. Thus, I ended up with a bearish leaning condor even though I ideally wanted it to be delta neutral.

In the meantime, this downward move of the past couple of days has positioned my Oct condor nearly delta neutral at +$15 with a large positive theta of $106. However, this position is still well underwater at about -$1,200 because our adjustments have reduced our profit potential and we need a lot of time decay to get us into the black.

The markets were buoyed by the FOMC announcement this afternoon. The Fed reiterated its observations that economic activity has improved, but, perhaps more importantly, said they intend to leave the fed funds rate at very low levels for some extended period of time to stimulate the economy. That boosted the markets. But it didn't last long before profit taking ensued. However, look at the charts. Both RUT and SPX simply closed down at the bottom of the consolidating range of the past few sessions. Therefore, there is no sign of a correction or change in trend direction here as yet.

This sideways and now slightly downward trading has been helpful for my Oct iron condor. The delta of my short $660 calls had dropped back to 14 this morning (closed at 12), so I sold my Nov $640 call for $16.10 ($450 gain). The position now stands at a P/L of -$1,385, delta = -$40 and theta = +$115. Our theta/delta ratio is back to a healthy neighborhood, but our wounded condor only has a maximum profit potential of $745 at this point. He's limping with 22 days to go. But trading the iron condor successfully is all about salvage operations - if you can salvage a small gain or even a small loss in the "bad" months, and take the gains in the "good" months, you can trade this strategy profitably. The key is learning to consistently manage the risk.

Today's market traded generally sideways to slightly higher. All of the broad indexes closed modestly higher, but off of their intraday highs. The pattern continues to look like a classic consolidation or base formation after a strong run upward. What should be encouraging to the bulls is the fact that whenever the market has shown any weakness intraday for the past several sessions, the buyers have returned to the table and held the broad market averages near their highs for the year. RUT closed at $621 while SPX closed at $1072.

I find it ironic (and a bit frustrating) that I have positioned my condors with extra safety margin to the downside for the past several months (negative delta), but my threats have come from the top side! I think I will position Nov with a delta neutral posture - the charts and technical indicators are pretty consistently bullish, but my emotions still worry about the other shoe dropping on the economy.

I closed the remaining eight $640/$650 call spreads this morning in my Oct iron condor. I paid $2.70 to close them and waited until the market ran up a bit this afternoon before rolling those eight contracts up to $660/$670 for $1.25. I still have the Nov $640 call hedging my top side. My short $660 calls have a delta of 16, so I still need that hedge. I considered adding one more long call today, but it would have reduced my position theta too much. At the close, the Oct condor stood at a P/L of -$1,685, position delta of -$16, and position theta = +$96.