Stock Quotes in this Article: GRA, NS, USNA

DELAFIELD, 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.

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

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.

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

NuStar Energy

NuStar Energy (NS) engages in the terminalling, storage, and transportation of petroleum products primarily in the U.S. and the Netherlands. This stock closed up 5.4% at $51.25 in Wednesday's trading session.

Wednesday's Volume: 2.46 million

Three-Month Average Volume: 488,292

Volume % Change: 399%

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From a technical perspective, NS spiked sharply higher here right off some near-term support at $48 and back above its 50-day moving average of $50.04 with strong upside volume. This move briefly pushed shares of NS into breakout territory, since the stock flirted with some near-term overhead resistance at $52. Shares of NS tagged an intraday high of $52.84 before closing just below that level at $51.25. Shares of NS are now quickly moving within range of triggering another big breakout trade. That trade will hit if NS manages to take out Wednesday's high of $52.84 to its 52-week high at $54.95 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in NS as long as it's trending above some key near-term support levels at $48 or at $47.69 and then once it sustains a move or close above those breakout levels with volume that hits near or above 488,292 shares. If that breakout hits soon, then NS will set up to enter new 52-week-high territory, which is bullish technical price action. Some possible upside targets off that breakout are $60 to $65.

W.R. Grace

W.R. Grace (GRA) engages in the production and sale of specialty chemicals and materials worldwide. This stock closed up 0.89% at $96.87 in Wednesday's trading session.

Wednesday's Volume: 1.95 million

Three-Month Average Volume: 566,162

Volume % Change: 242%

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From a technical perspective, GRA spiked modestly higher here right above some near-term support at $90 and back above its 50-day moving average of $95.74 with above-average volume. This stock has been consolidating and trending sideways for the last three months and change, with shares moving between $90 on the downside and $101.72 on the upside. This spike on Wednesday is starting to push shares of GRA within range of triggering a big breakout trade above the upper-end of its recent sideways trading chart pattern. That trade will hit if GRA manages to take out some key near-term overhead resistance levels at $99.12 to its 52-week high at $101.72 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in GRA as long as it's trending above $94 or $92 and then once it sustains a move or close above those breakout levels with volume that's near or above 566,162 shares. If that breakout hits soon, then GRA will set up to enter new 52-week-high territory, which is bullish technical price action. Some possible upside targets off that breakout are $110 to $115.

Usana Health Sciences

Usana Health Sciences (USNA) develops, manufactures, distributes and sells nutritional and personal care products worldwide. This stock closed up 17.3% at $68.46 in Wednesday's trading session.

Wednesday's Volume: 441,000

Three-Month Average Volume: 105,265

Volume % Change: 341%

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From a technical perspective, USNA gapped up sharply higher here and broke out above some near-term overhead resistance levels at $61.59 to $62.63 with heavy upside volume. Market players should now look for a continuation move higher in the short-term if USNA manages to take out Wednesday's high of $69.98 to its 50-day moving average of $70.43 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in USNA as long as it's trending above Wednesday's low of $64.16 and then once it sustains a move or close above $69.98 to $70.43 with volume that's near or above 105,265 shares. If we get that move soon, then USNA will set up to re-test or possibly take out its next major overhead resistance levels at its 200-day moving average of $73.61 to $75. Any high-volume move above those levels will then give USNA a chance to tag its next major overhead resistance levels at $77.50 to $79.

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

-- Written by Roberto Pedone in Delafield, Wis.


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

Roberto Pedone, based out of Delafield, 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.