The Christmas season has witches?

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This is a guest post from Tusk Trader (check out the newly launched site:, an experienced Bay Street trader who will be writing here until Tusk’s own blog is set up. Tusk had a front row seat to the twists, turns, and almost collapse of our capital market systems a few years ago and provides a unique perspective you won’t find anywhere else. For most people, financial literacy is the elephant in the room. Let Tusk Trader help change that. If you are on twitter, make sure to follow Tusk at @TuskTrader

In trading they do. This Friday is a witching day. Witching is a fun event for traders. I personally love it. It is a roll up your sleeves, focus only on your screen, and bang away on the keyboard type of trading. This exciting trading activity does not occur all day, and in fact the lunchtime trading on a witching day is generally painfully slow. A typical witching day has a busy open, slow late morning and quiet midday. The volume really picks up around 2pm, and last hour is the most volatile and called “the witching hour”. The last 20 minutes are manic and either creates pure bliss for a trader when things are going your way, or frustration and anguish when they are not.

This event of witching happens on the 3rd Friday of the month, in all of the months that end a quarter: March, June, September and December. This Friday is technically a quadruple witching day meaning 4 components are expiring together: options, index options, index futures and single stock futures. Witching days occur because many options come due at the same time and this creates volatility as market participants make sure positions stay in line with mandates. Many indices also announce index inclusions or changes weeks earlier that take affect on a witching day. This creates a fun second half of the day and a wild last 20 minutes of trading as all of the rebalancing and realigning of positions occurs.

Many traders even have set routines that they enact on witching days to assist in their market savvy. This is not unlike a hockey player putting on equipment in a specific order; Meaningless to everyone except the trader. The rise in computer trading programs has caused some witching days to be a non-event, but more than half still have better than normal action for a trader to get excited about.

Investors should not be too worried if they see a particularly volatile close on any in the markets on Friday. There could be a more a volatile open on the Monday as stocks fill in a big swing, but by 9:32am Monday morning, the effects to the market and it’s direction are almost always gone. Witching days are not about direction at all. They are about market participants having to get a massive amount of trading done in a short amount of time. This creates very a large amount of volatility but it is very contained and does not have lasting effects.

If you count trading as an important part of your investing strategy, be aware that not all financial media properly report the witching days or the volatility. Often, you must make note of them yourself. Trading floors are often amused as to the reasons some reporters give for the rise in volatility and volume. Now that you are in the know, have a chuckle with other traders and as some reporters look a little uninformed.

Thanks Tusk. Make sure to check out the site: or follow Tusk Trader on twitter: @tusktrader

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