Jan 29, 2019 – Update

Haven’t posted for a while mostly because I find it hard to post things that are intellectual property sensitive and now its even harder since I’ve gone back completely to the original course trades with slight tweaks. A 360 with nuance. How do I present interesting things when I can’t post the trade 🙂 But I am going to keep trying and hopefully try to post every few days…maybe more on my mindset, thoughts, challenges of managing larger account sizes etc. Whatever comes to my mind.

So first and fore most, My last post from like late Nov was emotive and when I just re-read it I realized just how confusing and unrepresentative it was of almost everything. Horrible. I wrote it and then kinda forgot about it and obviously didn’t proof-read it. So I finally edited it. I’ll explain more and why I did so below. I’ll start with the market and get into the events and where I am now:

We’ve just gone through a 20.5% fall in the SPX and it started in late September and was a culmination of two specific time periods (October and December). Both periods fell quite hard often following square sine wave type patterns (short abrupt moves down) then a pause and then a small bounce and more short abrupt down moves. And what was very unusual about it was that it didn’t have the same volatility spike you’d normally see. Nor did the actual volatility get reflected in the vol index or options pricing. The volatility in the market was not being priced according to actual volatility. Perhaps it was the complete annihilation of specific vol products in Feb that helped create this old relationship for the last 4-5 years (and subsequently all of our backtesting data) or perhaps its a new market pressure present. Who knows. The point is, we had a big big down move in 3 months and we didn’t have a vol spike that some rely on in specific vol type hedging. This created problems for people that created vol hedges based on data that we’ve only had really (intra-day) since 2011. Some created a ratio type hedge we called a KPBR. In backtesting, the thing pretty much was free. Paying for itself. No drag on income trades. Sounded good. But a few of us pointed out that the sea of death can be a big problem in specific market environments. I was initially excited but when I tested it, thought about and realized what could potentially happen, I insta-closed out the units I had on and fully relied on traditional BSH types.

Here’s what I said in the group as a polarized and probably rude comment re the KPBR

“I don’t want to be sitting up one night during the 4th day of a big down move/event and wondering if the market crashes tomorrow will the KPBR trigger or will it draw down further and I doubt I’d be thinking “Hey, my account is down 30% but at least my hedge was free” :)”

The thing with that hedge and even with the HS3, is that a slow large grind down will result in a very large draw down in the trade itself. These trades are just too exotic for me. So I am back to the basics (original PMTT BSH and BSH factories etc) I get that over time you probably will have the same cost (like over 5 years the KPBR may actually break even) but that doesn’t matter and here’s why: We are humans we have to cater to our human factors, our psychology if you will. How each trade and the management of our portfolio will feel and how it will affect everything from our ambition, motivation, sleep and our responses to trading our plan etc. If we are utilizing such a structure like the KPBR as a hedge to our OTM trades and we have an environment that temporarily draws down our STT by say a super standard 600-700 a unit (totally can happen in a heavy skew change due to a larger down move where way otm doesn’t quite spike) and our KPBR also draws down 600-700+ (I actually saw it go double that!) then you’re sitting at a draw down that could affect your trading mentality. You’re now sitting there at night, wondering if there is another big down move in the AM, will your KPBR trigger to provide some protection? what if it doesn’t? what if it draws down even further and more vix hurts my STT? All those doubts will cause you to probably make mistakes, burn out, lose sleep, or lose some humanity itself. I don’t want to be sitting up at night wondering if in the morning if my account will be down 30% but hey I got those KPBRs for free!

Most of you reading the blog know the STT inside and out, we know how much it’ll draw down in vol events, we know how to adjust it, we know it’s really docile and works well as a trade. Especially opportunistically. Having a 600-700 vol draw down won’t even make my heart rate increase 1 beat nor would I lose an ounce of sleep. Because I know it and I know how it will progress forward. The problem with the STT is a black swan, you need protection. That’s it really, just a black swan. Hence, why we need black swan protection. An STT alone w/out BSH protection can handle the 20% decline we saw in Oct-Dec because it wasn’t a shock event/swan. But imagine that you have the STT on and you have that 600-700 drawdown that you usually are not concerned with but you also have this 1k draw down in your hedge. Then things get really funky upstairs (in your mind). It starts to affect you in a variety of ways. Hence the need for protection that you understand.

So yeah, here we are now, Jan 29th, the market has fallen 20%+ and rebounded about 13% in a super V recovery. I’ve moved to trading a BSH factory (two versions: Income and hedge/lotto), an OTM Jeep type trade using the STT engine as per the course (not an ATM jeep ala the weirdor!), some rhinos and a base of standard equity type stuff (logical-invest), some earnings plays and that’s about it. Nice and simple.

I concluded that I will heavy trade STT opportunistically by itself (no BSH) when VIX is above 22 and especially if we have an MDD type day but I won’t trade them much in very low vix environments and instead I’ll do a version of the course JEEP trade probably with some directional bias (signals).

I was profitable through the Oct/Dec events and the STT put on in Oct event was insanely easy to manage through Dec. I loved that.

May 11 – Rhino M3 Trade Update

The June trades are doing well now. We’re at about 4% on planned capital and we are 37 Days to expiry (DTE). We started off pretty rough with this expiry and I am not interested in taking too much more risk with them now that we’ve got some profit. We paid a lot at the beginning as it was low-volatility as such I have reduced profit targets. So I’ll start peeling off as the market moves through the next 14 days. Right now, they are delta negative by about -10 deltas each unit.

I have some concern for the downside as downside moves can be swift and more difficult to adjust and with potential negative news in after hours, I’d rather have a nice cushion. We just fell from 1155 to 1115 and I’ve got a lot of upside hedges on. These have to start coming off if we fall much more, else I’ll have too much exposure to the downside. Up moves are a bit easier to manage (re fills and size of moves especially after a big run up) and generally there’s less explosive positive news in after hours that could get us in trouble. Plus, we have way less upside exposure in the T+0 line. I have a bearish bias at least around May expiration (May 20) and onward. We’ve got 7-14 days left and if the market continues to fall, I’ll remove upside portions of the trade more aggressively which will remove my downside risks and expand the tent. If, for some reason, we should get whipsawed hard, I’ll then remove the downside portions all while keeping things fairly delta negative. Thus unwinding the trade while allowing theta to work for us while keeping the goals of protecting the downside. I’ll continue like this over the next few weeks, seeking out more and more theta and unraveling the trades.

I don’t have the full unit exposure on July trades as I couldn’t get fills. If things get more volatile, we might be able to get great pricing this week or next. The more volatile it is the more closer to expiry pricing acts. I.E what you pay for a BWB @ 72 DTE in a low vol market would be similarly priced 55-60 DTE in a more high volatility market.

June Rhino M3 (P)
# of Units: 30
Planned Capital: 750,000
Current P/L : 27,092
Max Draw Down: P/L: -18,000
Current P/L(%): +3.6%

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 5.31.31 PM

June Rhino M3 (D)
# of Units: 16
Planned Capital: 400,000
Current P/L: 13,356
Max Draw Down P/L: -11,000
Current P/L(%): +4%

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 5.32.29 PM

June Rhino M3 (M)
# of Units: 25
Planned Capital: 625,000
Current P/L: 25,547
Max Draw Down: -16,800
Current P/L(%): +4.0%

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 5.33.14 PM

Mar 5 – Trade update and Historic run-up

My April trades don’t have that much more upside risk left. They’re all down @ about 5-5.5% on this record 15% move in 15 days. It’s actually a historic move and has broken a few records. A move to about 1100/1105 would bring another 1%/1.5% loss in the trade.

My plan is to add more theta to the trade and hedge the upside a bit with any pull back. I’ll do it in stages. If we get a touch in the 1070s, I’ll add some 1090 or 1100 call BWBs. If we get another touch in the 1060s, I’ll add more 1080 BWBs and so on. I won’t go too far out (probably 20 points above) and try beefing up the theta in the area and hoping for some decent pullback so we have a chance to break even or profit. If by Tuesday, there is no pullback, I’ll start figuring out how to deal with the theta and probably put on some 20 point out BWBs. A 5% pull back anytime in the next week would put us at a decent profit and allow us to re-adjust the trade or even just exit.

As someone posted in our skype group: All the way back to 1997, we have never had a move of this size without a single pull back. A similar pattern happened in 2013, we moved up 114 points on the QE business but that was as close as was found,and right now we’re up about 145 points. Truly a historic move. The RUT RSI is epic @ 91 and all indicators related are as extreme as you can get. The NYMO is now at 350. The all-time record is 375.

My trades are all down about 5% (15% w/ leverage). I expect an occasional 5% loss. Not worried about that. I am a bit frustrated and kinda demotivated by the challenges of the last 6 months. Starting in August, it’s been a silly environment that’s challenged me at every stop. From the Aug 24 crash, to the subsequent V reversal in October to the 22% fall from Dec 31 till Feb 11 and now I am dealing with a 15% straight rise (without break or consolidation). These challenges and dealing with larger money can suck the life out of you at times but to be fair, it’s been quite extreme environments that should train me to be a more astute trader. I am now looking over my plans to see if I faltered in how I managed the trades. I don’t know. I mean, I did use some technicals to my disadvantage and I guess around 1040 I would have added bit more upside hedges but nothing substantial was warranted. My play by play is that I was at -25 delta when Rut was at 1035. I added some BWBs and calendars, when it touched the 1040 area bringing it back down to the 22-25 delta area. I was satisfied, but then the last 15 minutes, we had a move to 1053 and my delta moved right to -25 delta again. The next day, I was convinced we were about as overbought as we could get and since I was hovering around the limits, I decided to wait for a pullback. The next day I got a little move down and put on a few more upside adjustments, again not much (enough?), RUT moved up again in the last 15-20 minutes to 1063 area. Super overbought. I haven’t really touched it since (a few additions). Now we’re at 1087 and down 5/6% with not a whole lot of upside risk left. Is my plan on waiting for some decent pull-back wrong or am I deer-in-headlights’ing it?? I think the odds of another sustained run is low and the odds of a decent pull-back eventually in the next 5 days is high. Without that much upside risk left, I believe the best is to wait. I mean we are at insane extremes. I continue to be patient as I was during the fall. Maybe this time it catches up with me.

I may even add some bearish butterflies if we touch 1090 🙂

Trade Plan – Sep 24

The market is going to open down slightly today at some major ES supports (1910-1915) with more support at 1898/1900. If we have a close below 1898, then we can expect a retest of the lows at 1880. If it can get above 1915, then I expect a retest of the 1940/1950 level. Yellen speaks today at 5pm EST and likely the market is going to putter around until then. I’ve got some adjustments to do today on the M3s for October and I’ll be looking to enter November trades.

The protector is down about 1.9% now vs SPY down about 6.2%. The protector lost a lot of value from Sep 8 till present due to the volatility collapse coming out of the long puts. The hedge part of the trade was what caused this loss. During the week of the correction, the protector was actually up about 1% due to the volatility in the longs. It did what it was supposed to do but the weeks following, as the fear leaves, the hedge starts to normalize and we experience some of that initial hedge gain dissipate. This is what is happening now.

The options trades have gained well during the past two weeks and we’re starting to go risk on today and tomorrow which might be good timing with this increased volatility.

Sep 17 – Fed Day

Today’s the big day. I am positioned with very little upside risk and about 5% room on the downside via a series of M3s. Though, one of the 1120 M3s are now vega positive and if volatility decreases it’ll sag the T+0 line a bit which will cause me some issues. Nothing too risky at all. I plan to up my risk going into October and have been waiting for the market to settle down. I added a few 1150 M3s today since the volatility is still high and we can get them at a nice cheap price given the time till expiry. Again it’ll handle all upside moves well and has a good 5% to the downside before any issues.

The RUT has moved up quite substantially in the last few days (up nearly 50 points! which is near 4%-5%).

5 min to go. Can’t wait for this meeting to be over with and for some normalcy to return to the markets.

The alpha protector is down on the recent rise as volatility flew out of the long puts. I was somewhat expecting that. As it gets passed 204-205 we’ll see profits return. I rolled up the shorts today from 201 to 203 to give more upside room.

Sep 12 – Trade Plan

This month has been the third most volatile month for the markets in history only being beat out by the 2008 financial crisis and the 1929 great depression. The overnight moves were extreme and made for the toughest markets for market neutral trading. Overnight gaps in each direction in the 1-4% range were regular and intense and quick reversals came at the drop of a dime. Going from an extreme low volatility environment to an incredibly high one is always going to be very challenging period for market neutral traders. Once in a high volatility period, it’ll be much easier to manage and probably a lot more profitable but the transition can permanently take out a lot of traders 🙂

I struggled immensely the past few weeks but finally had a decent week with some recovery. The MICs do not trade well in this environment and can be devastating in unexpected overnight crashes. The RUT moved from all time highs to about 17% down in the period of a few weeks. Crashes like what happened on Aug 24 will wipe out most iron condor traders. Luckily, those events are quite rare. If it happened during trading hours, it’d be a lot easier to manage. A study was done and it was found that 50% of the markets movement occurs in the futures between 3-4am during the past 7 years I believe. The market is more efficient and swift than in the past and I believe that it’ll make MIC trading a lot more difficult to manage than back-testing would suggest. In contrast, all the M3 traders I know are mostly positive (one is up 7%) and, remember, it’s still a market neutral trade that really doesn’t like movement. Yet it survived one of the most volatile months on record. That’s incredible. I’ve had a bunch of M3s on but not enough to even make a dent in the MIC losses. It’s a very resilient trade as you can see with the below risk profile.

M3’s can handle market movements a lot better. Here is an example of an M3 risk profile:

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 8.44.11 AM

The beauty of an M3 is how it compliments human factors. When I say human factors, I mean psychology and the things that challenge us within when trading. Things like taking losses with adjustments, or the opposite, adjusting to quickly out of fear etc etc. If you notice, you have no real upside risk and on the downside, you’re falling into profit being under the tent. So when you make an adjustment on the downside, you’re up money AND you’re usually taking money off the table. That’s a very nice adjustment in terms of human factors. As well, look at the room you have before you start losing money (almost what 5%?). Again, the beauty of managing this trade is its conservative risk profile, the fact that adjustments are mostly welcomed, and that a trader who’s keeping their T+0 line balanced will usually never have a problem with deviating from the plans so greatly that it affects the trade overtime.

Here is an MIC risk profile.

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 8.38.46 AM

You can see that on a quick fall (overnight) without the ability to protect yourself, you can have extremely large draw downs. This is especially pronounced as you get closer into expiry. Plus, this risk profile is taken in a high volatility environment, having put this on during Aug before the correction, it’d be even worse. That said, if you had the ability to adjust (moves happen DURING the day instead of overnight), then this trade is easy to manage. Overall, I mean, I loved the MIC trade until this month. I had a really rough month in the melt up in October of last year and I had a real rough month this month with the extreme overnight movements. For me, I just don’t know if its a trade that I can justify having seen how the M3, Rock and Bearish butterflies react. I mean, the MIC is a great trade for the most part, as you have quite a high theta and being in the green each month had a 93% success rate. It’s the extreme moves that occur overnight that really hurt and excessive whip saw. Both of those causes are what hurt me in the MIC trades recently. In hindsight, I should have closed the MIC straight away instead of trying to manage it through the week after crash. Hindsight is 20/20.

Sep 4 – Trade Plan

I had to take a break from posting. Those two weeks were probably the worst two weeks I’ve ever experienced. Managing the trades in this transitionary environment (extreme low volatility to extreme high volatility) has taken me to task and almost made me quit. We did terribly these past few weeks. Our MICs were utterly destroyed in the Monday correction and further the adjustments made (a mistake in hindsight) as the market moved 5% consistently over night in each direction several times.

We’ve got a few things hanging over the market right now and that is the fact that Chinese markets are open 2 full days before the US markets re labour day and the likely Fed rate hike on Sept 17th. Those two things are keeping options pricing very expensive. Being a market neutral theta decay based trader having originally been paid shit in a low volatility environment has been the biggest challenge. We’re experiencing 3-5% moves overnight and we’re getting no time decay. You literally cannot get a worse time for these trades and I have regrets in the management of the trades during the period. Though, I do realize most of these regrets are regrets in hindsight. I couldn’t have known the market would go green nor could I have let things ride the way we were positioned. All in all what an epic learning experience. I have weeks of data and thoughts to go over. I need to take this experience and learn everything I can from it.

As market neutral traders, we try to manage risk by making adjustments, but if we are constantly adjusting in each direction, we get killed. This means that we usually have to change the way we make adjustments (less frequently) but that exposes us to gamma risk if the market runs in one specific direction. My plan is to sideline the majority of my risk until after the 17th and wait for the market to calm down a bit then enter good solid trades and start the recovery process. As well, if we get a crash, I WILL enter some trades to take advantage of that (with great risk reward). This gives us the best odds for a smooth recovery. A few good months should get us back to where we were.

I tried to do the best I could at the time but I would do things differently. I opted to adjust pretty much when it was too late. I should have exited the MIC trades and took the loss. Instead, I adjusted and those adjustments cost me more than my planned loss as the market whip-sawed up and down in very large amounts. Each one taking more and more $. Taking a max loss isn’t just taking it for the sake of not having more, but the fact that you are at a max loss also means that the market is doing things it doesn’t usually do –> it’s not behaving rational or within normal parameters. That in and of itself is the main reason to just exit and wait. Given the conditions and what I saw in option pricing and market behaviours and how each strategy reacted (PUTS didn’t even have an ASK price during the morning!!) I learned so much and have so much to study about what happened, that it’ll make me a much better trader. I’ve now got an extreme melt up and an extreme melt down under my belt 🙂

So yeah, the transitionary period is the absolute worst thing we could have experienced (going from extreme low volatility to extreme high volatility) because we simply never got paid for the risk before the high volatility period. It’s no problem once we’re in high volatility and we get paid appropriately. However, that said, any EXTREME volatility market that was preceded by some sort of black swan (Yuan devaluation) will always be somewhat catastrophic for these types of trades. The event that we experienced is a 1 in 7 to 10 year event. We are still in an extreme volatility period while we navigate the devaluation issues and the potential fed rate hike on Sept 17th. This exposes our trades and I’ve reduced risk going into the weekend though not completely.

I felt so often to just quit but I’ve realized that I just went through a crash period that will be so invaluable to my experience in the future that I have to buck up and approach this as an opportunity to learn from direct experience in something that is such a risk but are experienced quite rarely and sometimes only once in someones options trading career.

Oh by the way, something super cool –> The protector alpha did not actually lose any capital throughout the crash or days following. We entered it at around SPY 205-206 and it was insured for that level. SPY went up to 213 and of course we had profits wiped out but we never lost capital. Now that is insane. We are at SPY 192 and we’re break-even. The market corrected 10% and our basket of equities were in fact 100% hedged. We participate in upside but not downside. Had we rolled our insurance, we’d actually be profitable.

Aug 23- Trade Update

That was a week for the history books. Oil had its largest weekly fall since ’86. Vix went up 47% in a week which is the highest in all history. The speed of the decline was also extremely unusual. I’ve read that perhaps the market cycles will be more square like rather than Sine like due to the efficiencies in this age (information hits markets instantly). Anyways, this decline reminds me of the up movement in October. These things are happening over night and giving no-one time to adjust. It makes for managing time decay based strategies quite difficult.

The protector portfolio is actually still up just shy of 1% while the SPY is down 4%. The equities were actually still up 2.5% but the hedge is down about 1.5%. So its outperforming SPY by about 5%. Nice. However, this last very swift correction has told me that I have have too much downside exposure. The MIC does not like increased volatility and sharp down moves nor does the protector. These were my leading strategies up until about a few months ago when I added the M3 and Bearish butterflies. Both of these have held up and are still mostly profitable though bruised from their specific highs. I’m leaning too much re risk to the downside and I need to adjust the ratios of the strategies. I’ll probably reduce the Protector to about 15%, the MIC to about 15% and the M3 to 50% and do the Rock trade and opportunistic Bearish Butterflies with the rest.

Like I said above, though, I know exactly how the protector would perform in a sharp down move, I’ve decided I am not comfortable with the downside exposure when coupled with everything else and how it affects my downside risks. Having two strategies go sharply down at the same time is not a great feeling and adds unnecessary stress. So I’ve decided to start working on lessening the ratio of these strategies within my own portfolio. I won’t be doing this reduction willy nilly but timed appropriately. The strategy does well, I mean it’s still up it’s just doesn’t fit well within all the other trades.

The RUT trades are down about 4-5% during that last fall. I imagine at least half of that is stuck in the prices of the options re volatility. Remember, the RVX/VIX are at extreme levels. That means that the options are priced with a lot of premium. The same options we sold. So the trades appear quite down. As time gets closer to expiry this volatility has to flow out and we’ll continue to maintain appropriate risk. Ideally, we don’t correct much more than a few more % before a strong bounce.

The SPX MIC trades are down 9%! This is expected as the SPX was the most dramatic collapse of the two. It fell 3% on Friday while the RUT only fell 1.1%. Any bounce should recover the trade to at least 4% down and we’ll do a larger adjustment then while maintaining appropriate deltas if we should have more down Monday. As we close in on expiry, I’ll be doing my best to get these things back to break-even. I’ve done it 2 times before during a correction. It just takes appropriate risk management and a level unemotional head 🙂

Overall, as of right now, with the options volatility at extremes and thus the option pricing also at extremes, when we look at all Aug (already posted results) and Sep trades, we are down about 2-2.5% overall. Not bad considering the events and also not bad since it is quite likely we will recoup a lot in the Sept trades. The trades weren’t designed really to withstand a furious drop with 80% of the downside happening after hours. Unfortunately, you can’t design a trade to weather all storms.

As I am following market news right now, I see that the bank of China has indicated that they are lessening reserve requirements, S. Korea and N.Korea have de-escalated the skirmish and Iran has requested an emergency OPEC meeting to combat the falling oil prices. This might be the bullish catalyst to spur a furious bounce. We shall see. A bounce would certainly be nice for the protector and also to adjust the MICs.
Update:  In an effort to curb the fall in the markets, China is going to allow pension funds to invest 30 % of its assets(546 Bln) in the financial markets and that includes all sorts of financial instruments.  Let’s see if the Shanghai composite holds that 3500 level and we see a bounce. 

Aug 1 – Trade Plan

I’ve officially added the M3 trade into my larger portfolio. I find it a much more conservative trade than the MIC in terms of risks, but strangely it should produce slightly better results, which is quite interesting.  It’s also a lot less stringent on timing of adjustments and more forgiving in general. From a direct comparison to just the mechanics of the trade vs the MIC, it is a better trade overall. The edge for the MIC is my experience managing it.  Either way, it’s a nice strong compliment to the MIC. The M3 is a trade John Locke developed when he was at the Sheridan mentor program. He’s since branched out on his own. It’s 10 bearish butterflies coupled with 1 long call thats DITM as to have no time value. It’s a market neutral time decay based trade. It’s got very little upside risk, and the downside adjustments usually occur when the trade is already up money and when the butterfly is close to its max value for that specific time in the trade. That’s neat.

Theoretical backtesting of the MIC in a strictly mechanical way produced an average of 3.3% a month since 2008, where the M3 produces an average of about 5% per month. However, with active management of the MIC and use of several indicators, I gather I am closer to 4%-4.5% over time.

For a neat look as to how well the M3 handles any market environment, in 2011 if you had put the trade on at the top of the market and had it on through the huge 63 point down day (what was that 8% down day?) and all the way to the bottom (~200 points??) and its subsequent rebound, the trade still came out at a win of the target 10%. That’s a resilient trade. This was managing the trade by checking only once per day at 3pm. That’s it. No intra-day adjustments besides that. Even during that 63 point down day, it was still up money.

Come September, I’ll start posting my trades and adjustments.

 

 

 

 

Jul 22 – Trade Plan

We had another RUT down day yesterday so I entered some more Aug MIC since the prices were good enough. It’s pretty damn close, and I don’t usually enter the trade this close (32 DTE) but the prices were decent and I am going to keep my profit targets on that part of the trade a bit lower.  The futures are down again and I might enter a final part today bringing our allocation to 50% for the month.

I closed about 75% of the SPX MIC put credit spreads when it touched 213.  It appears it was great timing as the market just fell a bunch since then. Yesterday I sold more to get the delta’s in line and to replace the ones I bought back.  Trade is looking great.

The RUT MIC is doing fine as well. I think it’s up 3-4%.

All in all, we are just holding our ground. The protector alpha shorts got a bit over-run and I had to adjust a few days ago – Only to have the market reverse 🙂

My bearish butterfly for Aug is up about 20% (the return is calculated a bit differently than the MIC returns).

Aug Kevlar trade is up nicely

Aug M3 trade is up 5-10%

All in all, sitting at all time highs and getting ready to enter the next trades.