Stock Quotes in this Article: OPTR, PCYC, NLNK

MADISON, Wis. (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 6.4% at $13.64 in recent trading.

Today's Volume: 1.04 million

Average Volume: 868,292

Volume % Change: 129%

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From a technical perspective, OPTR is bouncing strongly to the upside here right above its 200-day moving average at $12.21 with heavy upside volume. This move is quickly pushing shares of OPTR within range of triggering a near-term breakout trade. That trade will hit if OPTR manages to take out its 50-day moving average at $13.71 and then once it clears more resistance at $14.25 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in OPTR as long as it's trending above $13 and then once it sustains a move or close above those breakout levels with volume that hits near or above 868,292 shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then OPTR will set up to re-test or possibly take out its next major overhead resistance levels at $15 to $15.71.

Pharmacyclics

Pharmacyclics (PCYC) is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing innovative small-molecule drugs for the treatment of cancer and immune mediated diseases. This stock is trading up 9.5% at $86.51 in recent trading.

Today's Volume: 1.13 million

Average Volume: 807,960

Volume % Change: 128%

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From a technical perspective, PCYC is gapping up sharply higher here back above its 50-day moving average of $81.56, and it's breaking out above some near-term overhead resistance at $84.67 with above-average volume. This move has now started to push shares of PCYC above the upper-end of its recent sideways trading range between $71.85 on the downside and $84.67 on the upside.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in PCYC as long as it's trending above that key near-term breakout level of $84.67 with strong upside volume flows. I would consider any upside volume day that registers near or above its three-month average action of 807,960 shares as bullish. If PCYC can maintain that trend, then this stock will set up to re-test or possibly take out its next major overhead resistance levels at $90.50 to $95.

NewLink Genetics

NewLink Genetics (NLNK) is a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and commercializing novel immunotherapeutic products to improve cancer treatment options for patients and physicians. This stock is trading up 5% to $16.10 in recent trading.

Today's Volume: 225,000

Average Volume: 122,573

Volume % Change: 149%

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From a technical perspective, NLNK is ripping higher here and breaking out above some near-term overhead resistance at $15.61 with above-average volume. This stock has been uptrending strong for the last month, with shares soaring higher from its low of $11.19 to its intraday high of $16.21. During that move, shares of NLNK have been consistently making higher lows and higher highs, which is bullish technical price action. That move has now pushed shares of NLNK within range of triggering another major breakout trade. That trade will hit if NLNK manages to take out some past overhead resistance at $16.55 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in NLNK as long as it's trending above today's low of $15.24 or above $15 and then once it sustains a move or close above $15.61 to $16.55 with volume that hits near or above 122,573 shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then NLNK will set up to re-test or possibly take out its all-time high at $18.

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

-- Written by Roberto Pedone in Madison, Wis.

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

Roberto Pedone, based out of Madison, Wis., 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.