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.

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 recently.

Walter Energy

Walter Energy (WLT) produces and exports metallurgical coal for the steel industry. This stock closed up 9.9% at $11.09 in Wednesday's trading session.

Wednesday's Volume: 10.65 million

Three-Month Average Volume: 6.26 million

Volume % Change: 135%

From a technical perspective, WLT ripped sharply higher here right off its recent low of $9.90 with above-average volume. This stock has been downtrending badly for the last two months, with shares plunging lower from its high of $17.40 to its recent low of $9.90. During that downtrend, shares of WLT have been consistently making lower highs and lower lows, which is bearish technical price action. That said, shares of WLT are now spiking sharply higher off that $9.90 low and quickly moving within range of triggering a near-term breakout trade. That trade will hit if WLT manages to take out Wednesday's high of $11.11 to some more near-term overhead resistance levels at $11.47 to $11.89 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in WLT as long as it's trending above Wednesday's low of $9.95 or above $9.90 and then once it sustains a move or close above those breakout levels with volume that this near or above 6.26 million shares. If that breakout starts soon, then WLT will set up to re-test or possibly take out its next major overhead resistance levels at its 50-day moving average of $12.96 to its 200-day moving average of $13.98.

Encore Capital Group

Encore Capital Group (ECPG) provides debt management and recovery solutions for consumers and property owners in a range of assets primarily in the U.S. This stock closed up 1% at $50 in Wednesday's trading session.

Wednesday's Volume: 834,000

Three-Month Average Volume: 235,490

Volume % Change: 257%

From a technical perspective, ECPG trended modestly higher here right off its 50-day moving average of $48.54 with above-average volume. This stock recently formed a double bottom chart pattern at $46.15 to $46.19. Following that bottom, shares of ECPG have started to spike higher back above its 50-day moving average and into range of triggering a major breakout trade. That trade will hit if ECPG manages to take out some key overhead resistance levels at $51.31 to its 52-week high at $51.95 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in ECPG as long as it's trending above its 50-day at $48.54 and then once it sustains a move or close above those breakout levels with volume that hits near or above 235,490 shares. If that breakout takes hold soon, then ECPG will set up to enter new 52-week-high territory, which is bullish technical price action. Some possible upside targets off that breakout are $55 to $57.

Fiesta Restaurant Group

Fiesta Restaurant Group (FRGI), through its subsidiaries, owns, operates and franchises fast-casual restaurants in the U.S. This stock closed up 5% at $50.56 in Wednesday's trading session.

Wednesday's Volume: 844,000

Three-Month Average Volume: 342,551

Volume % Change: 65%

From a technical perspective, FRGI bounced sharply higher here right above its 50-day moving average of $47.17 with above-average volume. This move is quickly pushing shares of FRGI within range of triggering a major breakout trade. That trade will hit if FRGI manages to take out Wednesday's high of $52.07 to its all-time high at $53.08 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in FRGI as long as it's trending its 50-day at $47.17 and then once it sustains a move or close above those breakout levels with volume that's near or above 342,551 shares. If that breakout materializes soon, then FRGI will set up to enter new all-time-high territory, which is bullish technical price action. Some possible upside targets off that breakout are $60 to $62.

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.