Stock Quotes in this Article: APOL, ATLS, GNRC, IPGP

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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IPG Photonics

IPG Photonics (IPGP) is the developer and manufacturer of a line of high-performance fiber lasers for diverse applications in numerous markets. This stock is trading up 1% at $65 in recent trading.

Today's Volume: 626,000

Average Volume: 477,345

Volume % Change: 97%

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From a technical perspective, IPGP is trending modestly higher here with above-average volume. This stock has been uptrending strong for the last few weeks, with shares moving higher from its low of $54.32 to its intraday high of $65.78. During that uptrend, shares of IPGP have been consistently making higher lows and higher highs, which is bullish technical price action. That move is now pushing shares of IPGP within range of triggering a near-term breakout trade. That trade will hit if IPGP manages to clear some near-term overhead resistance levels at $65.85 to $67.24 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in IPGP as long as it's trending above today's low of $64.05 and then once it sustains a move or close above those breakout levels with volume that this near or above 477,345 shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then IPGP will set up to re-test or possibly take out its next major overhead resistance level at its 52-week high of $70.11. Any high-volume move above $70.11 will then put its next major overhead resistance levels at $75 to $77 into range for shares of IPGP.

Atlas Energy

Atlas Energy (ATLS) provides natural gas gathering services in the Anadarko, Arkoma and Permian Basins and the Golden Trend in the southwestern and mid-continent U.S. and the Appalachian Basin in the eastern U.S. This stock is trading up 7.6% to $51.68 in recent trading.

Today's Volume: 434,000

Average Volume: 280,255

Volume % Change: 117%

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Shares of ATLS are ripping higher today after the company said it is acquiring above 466 billion cubic worth of proven natural gas reverses for $733 million. Once the acquisition closes, the company expects the new resources to immediately boost its cash flow.

From a technical perspective, ATLS is gapping sharply higher here back above its 50-day moving average at $49.51 with above-average volume. This move is quickly pushing shares of ATLS within range of triggering a major breakout trade. That trade will hit if ATLS manages to take out some near-term overhead resistance levels at $52 to its 52-week high at $53.60 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in ATLS as long as it's trending above its 50-day at $49.51, and then once it sustains a move or close above those breakout levels with volume that hits near or above 280,255 shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then ATLS will set up to enter new 52-week and all-time high territory above $53.60, which is bullish technical price action. Some possible upside targets off that breakout are $55 to $60.

Generac

Generac (GNRC) is a designer and manufacturer of generators and other engine-powered products for the residential, light commercial, industrial and construction markets. This stock is trading up 2% at $36.65 in recent trading.

Today's Volume: 1.07 million

Average Volume: 814,014

Volume % Change: 82%

 

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From a technical perspective, GNRC is trending higher here and breaking out above some key overhead resistance levels at $36.23 to $36.34 with above-average volume. This move has also pushed shares of GNRC into new 52-week high territory, which is bullish technical price action.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in GNRC as long as it's trending above today's low at $36.12 or above those key breakout levels with strong upside volume flows. I would consider any upside volume day that registers near or above its three-month average action of 814,014 shares as bullish. If GNRC can maintain that move, then this stock will set up to re-test or possibly take out its 52-week high at $36.90. Some possible upside targets off a move above its 52-week high are $40 to $45.

Apollo Group

Apollo Group (APOL) offers distinctive educational programs and services both online and on-campus at the undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels. This stock is trading up 3.3% to $22.02 in recent trading.

Today's Volume: 2.73 million

Average Volume: 2.51 million

Volume % Change: 78%

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From a technical perspective, APOL is ripping higher here right above its 200-day moving average at $21.07 with above-average volume. This move is quickly pushing shares of APOL within range of triggering a major breakout trade. That trade will hit if APOL manages to take out some past overhead resistance levels at $22.48 to $24 with high volume. At last check, APOL has hit an intraday high of $22.91 and volume is just starting to surpass its three-month average action of 2.51 million shares.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in APOL as long as it's trending above its 200-day at $21.07 and then once it sustains a move or close above those breakout levels with volume that hits near or above 2.51 million shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then APOL will set up to re-fill some of its previous gap down zone from last October that started near $30.

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.