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BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- This market is all about milestones.
Two weeks ago, stocks nailed their biggest week of gains since 2009 -- and just yesterday, the broad market recorded the worst day in more than a month as the S&P 500 shed 1.81%. This morning, the market looks set to show us another rough session as concern over the spread of the eurozone debt crisis to Italy escalates.
Meanwhile, the market’s being grossly mispriced. We’ve previously touched on last quarter’s disconnect between corporate earnings and market performance -- but it looks like we’re going to see another quarter of the same if yesterday’s earnings season kickoff was any indication.
A perfect example of that market mispricing is the VIX S&P 500 Volatility Index. The VIX has actually fallen more than 16% since the start of the end-of-June rally that pushed stocks 5.6% higher. So while volatility has clearly increased in the market, investors are only pricing it in when the market turns bearish.
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Even though the stock market is a mess right now, there are still a slew of profitable trades popping up. The key to profit is turning to the technicals.
Remember, technical analysis is a way for investors to quantify qualitative factors, such as investor psychology, based on a stock's price action and trends. Once the domain of cloistered trading teams on Wall Street, technicals can help top traders make consistently profitable trades and can aid fundamental investors in better planning their stock execution.
Here’s a look at this week’s setups.
iShares MSCI Italy ETF
With Italian debt worries causing the lion’s share of this week’s market drop, let’s take a look at what’s going on in Italian stocks through the iShares MSCI Italy ETF (EWI). This exchange-traded fund is one of the most easily accessible ways for U.S. investors to gain exposure to the Italian economy -- so it’s no surprise that shares have been dropping like a rock.
Right now, a complex head-and-shoulders top in EWI is signaling a major breakdown of the index. One of the most well-known technical patterns, the-head-and shoulders top demonstrates exhaustion among buyers of a stock. It can be spotted by finding two relatively symmetrical intermediate peaks (shoulders), with a larger peak in between (head). In the case of EWI, we’re actually looking at a complex head and shoulders -- a setup that doesn’t really change the trading implications but does increase the reliability of the setup.
Shares of EWI broke down below its dual necklines in yesterday’s trading. That triggers this as a definitive downside play for the week. Wait for some bearish continuation in today’s trading session before considering this a short candidate.
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Another PIIGS stock that’s presenting a head-and-shoulders top right now is Irish construction material stock CRH (CRH). CRH is hardly a pure play on the PIIGS -- the company has considerable exposure to the U.S. housing market, for example -- but outsized eurozone exposure means that the company is bound to get rocked by the ebb and flow of other euro-domiciled stocks.
Unlike EWI, shares of CRH are showing us a much more clear-cut head-and-shoulders top, with shares testing their neckline right now. A breakdown below the neckline triggers a short-side trade on this stock. If you do decide to take a position in CRH, I’d suggest keeping a protective stop right above the 200-day moving average.
2011 has been a good year for shareholders in glass fiber manufacturer Owens Corning (OC). Shares of the $4.53 billion firm have rallied more than 16% year-to-date, outperforming the broad market by nearly 12%. Now investors could be in for additional upside.
That’s because Owens Corning is forming an ascending triangle setup, a pattern that’s marked by horizontal resistance to the upside and uptrending support below. As shares get squeezed in between those two technically significant price levels, the potential for a breakout above resistance increases substantially.
In OC, traders should be waiting for a break above $39. When that happens, eager buyers have absorbed excess overhead supply of shares, and it makes sense to go long. Keep a protective stop just below the 50-day moving average.
American Express (AXP) has enjoyed some strong technicals in the past couple of weeks. Shares saw a rounding bottom setup breakout above the $51.50 resistance level at the start of last week after rallying nearly double-digits from mid-June. Now, traders who missed the run-up could get a second chance to buy shares.
Right now, American Express is throwing back to its breakout level at $51.50, a former resistance level that automatically became a relevant support level as soon as it was surpassed. With AXP at a 52-week high, shares have considerable room to run higher -- but it’s crucial to wait for a bounce off of that support level before buying.
That’s because shares could still puncture that support level if selling pressures prove strong enough. Wait for support to get confirmed by a bounce, and then go long for a mid-term trade.
American Express is one of the biggest holdings in Warren Buffett's portfolio, comprising 12.8% of the total portfolio. One of TheStreet Ratings' top-rated consumer finance stocks, it shows up on a recent list of the 7 Best-Performing Dow Stocks.
iShares Silver Trust ETF
After the massive run that precious metals have made in the last couple of years, it’s no surprise that the iShares Silver Trust ETF (SLV) is one of the most popular trading instruments for gaining exposure to silver. Shares peaked late April, leaving traders to wonder whether the rally was over for good. We last looked at this fund back in May, when I called the intermediate bottom for a 10% run-up to the 50-day moving average. Now, there’s another trade brewing in this name.
SLV is currently showing us a solid “if/then” setup. Simply put, an if/then setup provides two trading alternatives that are contingent on shares breaching a technically significant level. For SLV, with shares consolidating between resistance at the 50-day, and organic support at $32, traders have a tight range to watch this month.
Wait for a break outside of the channel to occur before taking a trade -- when it happens, your trade should be in the direction of the breakout. Either way, consider a protective stop just inside the channel.
To see these plays in action, check out the Technical Setups for the Week portfolio on Stockpickr.
-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.
At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.
Jonas Elmerraji, based out of Baltimore, is the editor and portfolio manager of the Rhino Stock Report, a free investment advisory that returned 15% in 2008. He is a contributor to numerous financial outlets, including Forbes and Investopedia, and has been featured in Investor's Business Daily, in Consumer's Digest and on MSNBC.com.