Stock Quotes in this Article: JAZZ, OPTR, QCOR

WINDERMERE, Fla. (Stockpickr) -- Professional traders running mutual funds and hedge funds don’t just look at a stock’s price moves; they also track big changes in volume activity. Often when above-average volume moves into an equity, it precedes a large spike in volatility.

Major moves in volume can signal unusual activity, such as insider buying or selling -- or buying or selling by “superinvestors.”

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Unusual volume can also be a major signal that hedge funds and momentum traders are piling into a stock ahead of a catalyst. These types of traders like to get in well before a large spike, so it’s always a smart move to monitor unusual volume. That said, remember to combine trend and price action with unusual volume. Put them all together to help you decipher the next big trend for any stock.

With that in mind, let's take a look at several stocks rising on unusual volume today.

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Optimer Pharmaceuticals

Optimer Pharmaceuticals (OPTR) is a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and commercializing anti-infective products. This stock is trading up 12% at $12.01 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 2.80 million

Average Volume: 608,811

Volume % Change: 679%

Shares of OPTR are soaring higher today after the firm said it was exploring a possible sale of the company among a full range of alternatives and replaced its CEO as part of a review of compliance issues.

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From a technical perspective, OPTR is gapping sharply higher here right above some near-term support at $10.70 with massive upside volume. This move has briefly pushed OPTR back above its 200-day moving average of $12.61, but it has since then pulled back to around $12. At last check, OPTR has hit an intraday high of $12.74, and volume is well above its three-month average action of 608,811 shares.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in OPTR as long as it’s trending above $12 to its 200-day at $12.61 with strong upside volume flows. I would consider any upside volume day that registers near or above its three-month average action of 608,811 shares as bullish. If OPTR can maintain that trend, then this stock will set up to re-test or possibly take out its next major overhead resistance levels at $14 to $15.

Questcor Pharmaceuticals

Questcor Pharmaceuticals (QCOR), a biopharmaceutical company, provides prescription drugs for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, nephrotic syndrome and infantile spasms indications. Its products include H.P. Acthar Gel and Doral. This stock is trading up 3.7% at $33.90 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 4.18 million

Average Volume: 1.62 million

Volume % Change: 323%

Shares of QCOR are ripping higher today after the company said its net income nearly doubled in the fourth quarter on an increase in prescriptions of its H.P. Acthar Gel, which is used to treat several autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

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From a technical perspective, QCOR is trending up here and moving back above its 200-day moving average of $33.87 with heavy upside volume. This stock has been uptrending strong since it cleared its 50-day at $27.54 a few weeks ago, with shares soaring to its intraday high of $34.74. During that uptrend, shares of QCOR have been consistently making higher lows and higher highs, which is bullish technical price action.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in QCOR as long as it’s trending above today’s low of $31.50 or above its 200-day at $33.87 with strong upside volume flows. I would consider any upside volume day that registers near or above its three-month average action of 1.62 million shares as bullish. If QCOR can maintain that trend, then this stock will set up to trend well north of $40 a share. In fact, the next major resistance level for QCOR sits at $50.

Jazz Pharmaceuticals

Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) is a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing innovative products to meet unmet medical needs in neurology and psychiatry. This stock is trading up 3.1% at $58.62 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 886,000

Average Volume: 472,361

Volume % Change: 203%

Shares of JAZZ are moving higher today after the company reported that fourth-quarter revenue surged due to acquisitions and sales growth for its narcolepsy treatment Xyrem.

From a technical perspective, JAZZ is spiking higher here right off its 50-day moving average of $55.76 with above-average volume. This move has started to push shares of JAZZ into breakout territory, since the stock has flirted with some near-term overhead resistance levels at $57.70 to $59.19. At last check, JAZZ has hit an intraday high of $59.89 and volume is well above its three-month average action of 472,361 shares.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in JAZZ as long as it’s trending above that first breakout level of $57.70, and then once it sustains a move or close above $59.89 to its 52-week high at $60 with volume that hits near or above 472,361 shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then JAZZ will set up to enter new 52-week high territory above $60, which is bullish technical price action. Some possible upside targets off that breakout are $65 to $70 in the near future.

To see more stocks rising on unusual volume, check out the Stocks Rising On Unusual Volume portfolio on Stockpickr.

-- Written by Roberto Pedone in Winderemere, Fla.


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At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Roberto Pedone, based out of Windermere, Fla., is an independent trader who focuses on technical analysis for small- and large-cap stocks, options, futures, commodities and currencies. Roberto studied international business at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and he spent a year overseas studying business in Lubeck, Germany. His work has appeared on financial outlets including

CNBC.com and Forbes.com. You can follow Pedone on Twitter at www.twitter.com/zerosum24 or @zerosum24.