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Markets closed much higher today, but the closes looked better than the intraday trading which was extremely volatile. Toward the end of the day many observers feared we were going to surrender much of today's gains. SPX opened higher this morning and continued to climb until around 1 pm ET, when SPX hit its high for the day at $1990, but then traded off by over forty points until just after 3 pm ET, and then traded strongly higher into the close at $1988, up $47 on the day. RUT behaved similarly, gaining $21 to close at $1154. After peaking around 53% on Monday, the VIX has now dropped to 25.7%, down almost five points just today. That level of volatility remains high, but it has come down significantly over the past couple of days.

Trading volume declined from yesterday with 3.2 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading, but this is still well above the 50 dma at 2.4B. Trading dropped 3% on the NYSE and declined 10% on NASDAQ.

The big economic news today was the second estimate of second quarter GDP, revised higher to +3.7%. This helped reassure investors that the recent market weakness was over-done. Pending home sales increased 0.5% for July, up from the -1.7% of June. Initial unemployment claims came in at 271k, down slightly from last week's 277k. Continuing unemployment claims increased by 13 thousand to 2.27 million.

The last two days of trading have been very strong, so much so that many analysts are skeptical that this correction is over. Today's last hour of trading certainly appeared to suggest that the bulls are back in charge. But it still pays to be cautious. Dip your toe in carefully.

One of the measures of a strong bearish market is a close at the lows of the day, as we saw last Thursday and Friday on SPX. Monday plunged even lower, but recovered some of those losses before closing. Just as we caught our breath yesterday, the market fell out of bed late in the day to close at the lows once again. We finally saw a close hear the highs of the trading session today with SPX hitting a high at $1943, and closing at $1941, up $73. RUT traded even more bullishly, trading lower to match yesterday's close, and then RUT rallied higher to close at $1132, up $28. Volatility pulled back six points with the VIX closing at 30%, still a relatively high volatility level, but not nearly as high as Monday's intraday high at 53%.

Trading volume was unchanged from yesterday, but remains above average with 3.8 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading. Trading on the NYSE was up 6%, but trading volume on NASDAQ was up only 1%.

I think most market observers have concluded that we are not going over the cliff and starting a bearish trend, but instead, we are observing a relatively significant market correction of about 12%. The resulting question on everyone's minds is whether we have seen the bottom yet? The closing lows for SPX in the last significant correction (Oct 2014) were around $1862. Monday's intraday low and Tuesday's close were at $1867 and $1868, respectively. So it looks like the October correction low may provide support for this correction. But correction bottoms are always messy affairs. We will likely see some choppy markets before we see a definitive recovery begin.

For those of you willing to take a little more risk, selling OTM put spreads on the broad market indexes at these volatility levels is attractive. As volatility declines, it will make it easier to close for a larger percentage of the profits. Of course, this presumes we have seen the worst of this market decline. Therein lies the risk.

I was encouraged a bit yesterday with a small bounce near the close; for once, we didn't close at the low of the day. Today SPX opened above yesterday's close and proceeded to recover a large proportion of yesterday's losses - too good to be true. The last hour of trading was ugly, resulting in a lower close at $1868, down $26. RUT also traded down $8 to close at $1104. The VIX peeled off nearly five points to close at 36% - still very high, so we are clearly not yet out of the woods. Trading volume began to contract with 3.7 billion shares of the S&P 500 companies, but the 50 dma is 2.3B, so this remains an elevated level. Trading volume declined 25% on the NYSE and also declined 26% on NASDAQ.

SPX is now down 9.3% for 2015 and this correction stands at a negative 12.2% since the recent high on July 20.

There wasn't any significant economic data reported today. The Jackson Hole symposium comes on Thursday and I am sure we will hear many sound bites from the participants and speculation from the analysts. The commentary will be breathless in the aftermath of Monday's flash crash.

It's too early to say we are near a bottom, but the initial signs are encouraging. At least the free fall ended today. But tomorrow is another day...

When I looked at the futures this morning, I gasped. Then I gasped again after the market opened and SPX plunged down to $1867 in about 5 minutes. It slowly recovered much of the loss through early afternoon, but then weakened again to close the day at $1893, down $78. RUT lost $45 to close at $1112. Volatility spiked as high as 53% on the VIX, before settling to 41%, up 13 points. Trading volume also spiked, with 4.8 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading today. Trading rose 27% on the NYSE and was up 26% on NASDAQ. This spike in volume is even more significant when you consider that Friday was options expiration which propped up that volume number somewhat.

That initial spike lower on the markets resulted in a lot of discussion in all of the financial media, with repeated references to the May 2010 flash crash. The initial loss on the Dow actually surpassed the May 2011 flash crash.

My Flying With The Condor™ service is 100% in cash, so we are watching the turmoil with a 34% gain year to date. That feels good. But the bigger question remains: is this "V bottom" different? The close today brought the SPX to 11% below the late July high. Is this a correction or the beginning of a bearish reversal? I would be the first to acknowledge the mediocre nature of U.S. economic data, but the data don't warrant this market. Is China's slowdown all that is going on here? More questions than answers.

We have all seen our share of bear markets, but the past two days have been ones for the record books. Yesterday, SPX lost 2.1% of its value and I think of a one percent loss as a big day. But today, SPX traded down even more strongly, losing 3.2% of its value. SPX closed at $1971, down $65. SPX is now down 4.3% for the year. RUT didn't trade nearly as bearishly today as SPX, and at one point this morning, RUT actually looked like it might trade up to yesterday's close, but it couldn't hold and closed down $16 at $1157. Naturally, volatility has spiked with the VIX hitting 28% today, the highest level all year.

Trading volume was higher today, although at least some of that was due to option expiration. 3.5 billion shares of the S&P 500 traded today. Trading volume rose 28% on the NYSE and rose 25% on NASDAQ.

I was considering hedging my Oct RUT 1060/1070 put spreads this morning, but decided on the conservative path. This market is just too ugly. I closed those spreads for an 11% loss. This brings our year to date gains to +34%, way ahead of the S&P 500. If we get a bounce, I will work at re-establishing my October condor position.

SPX closed at its lows both yesterday and today - a very bearish pattern. After yesterday's extreme bear market, I expected a bit of a bounce, but that faded quickly and today's trading even exceeded the bearishness of yesterday's market. Next week will be interesting. And, by the way, don't tell me this is all about China.

The so-called Beige Book, the minutes from the last FOMC meeting, were issued this afternoon, and it seemed as though that helped the market for a few minutes, but it didn't last. SPX closed down $17 at $2080, just above the 200 dma. RUT lost $13 to close at $1203. Volatility rose with the VIX closing up about a point and a half at 15.3%. SPX opened and sliced down through the 200 dma this morning, hitting its low for the day at $2071. SPX hit its high for the day a few minutes after the Fed minutes were released, but then SPX weakened and closed lower.

Trading volume spiked upward today with 2.2 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading. Volume on the NYSE rose 22% and trading on NASDAQ rose 21%. So we had a weak market day on increased volume - not good.

Both the minutes and various quotes from FOMC members suggest there are strong camps on both sides of the decision to raise interest rates at the September meeting or to wait until December. In the meantime, we are stuck in this trading range. I am watching this market closely. It seems precariously balanced right now and I am unsure what might tip it one way or the other. When a market trades sideways this long, the resulting move higher or lower is usually very strong.

The markets continue to just ebb back and forth, as though waiting on something to happen. The minutes from the last FOMC meeting will be released tomorrow. Perhaps that will push the market one way or the other, but I doubt it. The Fed rarely gives a definitive peek of the future; they have to keep their cards close to the chest. SPX closed at $2097, down $6, and RUT lost $10 to close at $2115. Volatility increased a bit with the VIX closing at 13.8%, up almost one point. Trading volume remains pretty flat with 1.7 billion shares of the S&P 500 companies trading, but this is well below the 50 dma at 2.1B. Trading on the NYSE increased 3% but trading was down 1% on NASDAQ.

Housing starts came in at an annualized rate of 1.206 million for July, the highest since 2009. Building permits followed suit at 1.119 million.

I took a look at the price/earnings ratio of the S&P 500 companies today; it is running around 21, which is on the high side, but well below the highs around 30 from the dot com bubble. When one adjusts the data based on relative yields, the low interest rates make stocks look more attractive, so maybe the P/E ratio isn't too high after all.

I am inclined to believe the overall market is treading water in advance of news from the Fed about interest rates. In any case, the longer we trade sideways, the more likely we remain in a long term bull market that is just taking a breather. The bulls continue to repel any moves to push this market lower.

SPX opened down this morning and hit a low at $2079. But from about 10 am ET on, SPX steadily climbed higher, closing up $11 at $2102. RUT gained $12 to close at $1225. But trading volume continues to be rather weak with 1.6 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading. Trading volume rose 2% on the NYSE and increased 1% on NASDAQ. We remain solidly trapped in the trading range of the past several months. Volatility remains sorta "luke warm" with the VIX at 13.0%, up two tenths of a point today. This isn't much of a rise in volatility, but it is unusual to see VIX up on a positive day in the markets. Hmmm...

The Empire manufacturing survey (from the New York Fed) surprised analysts, plunging in August to -14.9 from July's +3.9 reading. Several signs of a softening economy are starting to pop up - nothing too severe, but enough to raise my concerns.

My Oct iron condor on RUT still only consists of the put spreads at 1060/1070. My plan was to sell the call spreads when the market cycled back higher, but so far, the market hasn't cooperated. This is an excellent example of the downside of legging into a condor position.

I will now return to treading water.

Trading volume fell off dramatically today after dropping significantly yesterday as well. Trading in the S&P 500 stocks dropped to 1.7 billion shares today (well below the 50 dma = 2.14B). SPX finished eight dollars higher at $2092 and RUT also tacked on eight dollars to close at $1213. Volatility continued to come in with the VIX shedding six tenths of a point to close at 12.9%.

Today's move positions SPX right in the middle of the trading range of the past six months, but RUT is sitting at the bottom edge of that trading range. That may be a warning sign.

The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.2% in July, down from June's +0.4%. Industrial production increased 0.6% , a nice increase from June's +0.1%. Capacity utilization remains flat at 78%. The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment survey came in at 92.9 for August, about the same as last month's 93.1.

I filled my RUT put spreads for October about three weeks ago, thinking I would sell the call spreads when the market cycled back toward the top end of the trading range. But instead, RUT has been hanging around the bottom edge of the trading range. That illustrates the risk taken when one legs into an iron condor position. My October put spreads are up about 3%, but I will feel better when this market makes a run higher so I can balance the position with the call spreads.

The price movement and the trading volume data seem like the market has gone into suspended animation until the Fed meeting in September. But that's a long time to wander sideways.

The markets opened slightly down this morning and then traded higher and looked like we might post small gains for the day. But in the last hour of trading, we gave it all back to close lower on the day. SPX lost $3 to close at $2083 and RUT lost $4 to close at $1205.Volatility was essentially flay with the VIX dropping a tenth of a point to 13.5%. Trading volume fell sharply with 1.9 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading. Trading on the NYSE dropped 20% and declined 21% on NASDAQ.

Initial unemployment claims increased slightly to 274k from 269k and continuing unemployment claims increased to 2.273 million from 2.258M. Retail sales increased 0.6% in July, an improvement over June's fat zero.


Are we stuck in this trading range until the Fed meeting? That's over a month away...