Yearly Archives: 2009

Three Days of the Iron Condor

We’re back after a refreshing one-week break! Here in Denver we packed the house with visitors, the kitchen with delicacies, the slopes with our skis, and our bellies with generally excessive consumption. Good thing reality returns with a bite soon!

Remember that Redford flick from the 1970s, Three Days of the Condor? It’s a thriller about high-level conspiracy. In volatility trading, an Iron Condor is not conspiratorial, just an income trade. You sell two puts and buy two calls, with the spread between both always giving you an initial credit in your account (your highest possible return). If the underlying issue, say an individual stock or the S&P 500 Index, the SPX, trades between your puts and calls, your options expire and you keep one or both credit spreads. It’s a popular thing to do in sideways markets.

(more…)

On the NYSE and Knight Floors

Denver is an icebox, so we went east to New York to warm up. Lovely here, the tree glittering at Rockefeller Center and the snowflakes magically materializing to music on the Saks & Co. façade. Festive!

Carmen Barone and the Barclays team graciously hosted me yesterday on the NYSE trading floor, and in the afternoon Marge Wywras at Knight Capital Group turned me loose with the traders on the Knight floor in Jersey City. That’s darned near a perfect business day to me. (more…)

The heart of the IR job

I’m moderating the NIRI Virtual Chapter meeting on modern equity markets tomorrow 12/1 at noon ET. See nirivirtual.org for details.

As I move the midsection flab from a grand Thanksgiving holiday aside to get at the keyboard (a little humor there), the US equity markets are closing up again. IR folks and executives, what’s proving the most accurate indicator of market direction lately? And what’s it mean to your own market structure?

(more…)

What “Money” Means Now

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and the sun-splashed snow along Denver’s South Pearl Street is festive! Groping for reflective thoughts this holiday season we found humorist Dave Barry’s mother, who told him these immortal words long ago: “Son, it’s better to be rich and happy than poor and sick.” As Dave Barry observed, “That makes sense, even in these troubled times.”

(more…)

How Do You Know What’s Real?

We’ve gone and done it.

We’re moving the Market Structure Map to a blog, to invite comments (so please comment!). Don’t worry, we’re not about to start tweeting. But I do like the interactivity at the blog. We’ll dual track with the email awhile, then move to alerts about the weekly post.

In the Michael Jackson movie “Just Do It,” the legend is backed by a cadre of dancers in one scene, who, through “green screen” technology are replicated so that it appears to viewers to be a vast dancing army.

Vast Dancing Army would be a good name for a rock band. And Green Screen might be at work in the equity markets. Is trading real, or replications that create an illusion meant to mimic reality?

(more…)

The Tale of Tail Risk

If you think “tail risk” is what happens if you grab a cat by the tail, well, that’s not far off. Did you know that an entire institutional subset is focused on the risk relative to theoretically ending up with a handful of grabbed cat? We’ll come to that in a minute, and how it might affect your stock.

First, these markets. Real, or more statistical arbitrage? Checking the data, something very unusual occurred last week. On November 4 in our data, the volumes we call electronic and speculative were dead, spot-on, even, at 35.8% of the total, each. That day, divergence in major market measures ceased, and volumes turned bullish. It stood out to us.

(more…)

Size (of trades) Matters

Mother Nature and Denver last week were like a samba episode of Dancing with the Stars, twirling furiously. In fact, snow torpedoed my trip to Boston, but only after an hour floundering through a foot of slush to the airport at an average speed of 25 mph. And today it’s 70 degrees on the Front Range.

Switching gears, I owe a mea culpa. We’ve berated the exchanges for fueling conditions that constrain real investment – fragmentation, rebates, direct access, sponsored access, high-frequency trading, flash orders etc, et al, since data and transactions are keys to exchange prosperity. But Duncan Niederauer’s interview in the weekend Wall Street Journal (see link below) was the best call yet for return to capital formation in the equity markets. I am now cooking up a comfort-food casserole of crow in the crock pot.  I did drop a note to Mr. Niederauer saying so, too.

(more…)

Volatility and Small Caps

We’ll spend the bulk of today’s note explaining why small-cap stocks increasingly find their shareholdings dominated by a few large quantitative institutions.

First this on equity markets: Last week we noticed a surge in “volatility trading.” We’ve written before about these tactics that capitalize on volatility as the asset instead of the direction of the markets or a given security.

(more…)

What We Should Do With Dark Pools

A word on the markets: options expired last week, while swaps and counterparty agreements pegged to volatility measures lapse tomorrow. Speculation and risk management trading are high as a result. If you expect your stock to behave as though everybody buying and selling it acts on fundamentals, you’ll encounter the unexpected.

The NYSE and Charles Schumer were talking today about rules for dark pools. The NYSE is partnered with dark-pool operator Liquidnet and is building a massive high-speed trading facility in New Jersey. The Nasdaq meanwhile plans to launch an exchange next year that will give priority to orders of size, to compete with the size advantage dark-pool operators offer.

(more…)