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5 Stocks to Trade for Gains in the Tech Sector - views
BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- With data pouring in from every corner of Wall Street, it’s bound to be a big week for Mr. Market. This morning, investors are already weighing the news that Congress may have come up with a tentative deal to fund the federal government. And later today, the Fed will be releasing a statement on its latest rate decision.
At this point, there’s considerable speculation that the Fed will start thinking about hiking interest rates early -- but the speculation is just that for now.
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Despite the torrent of fundamental news we’re seeing this week, stocks are still trading off of technicals right now. That’s an indication that while economic data are significant, investors don’t know how to react to them as of yet. So even though this morning’s tepid bounce is being attributed to the fundamental news, it’s really more of a correction from yesterday’s selling than anything else. As long as stocks remain stuck in “neutral space” (that is, the space in between important support and resistance levels), the market isn’t telling us anything important about shifts in sentiment.
On an individual basis, however, some stocks are presenting attractive trading opportunities right now -- especially in the technology sector, a group that’s been outperforming the rest of the market for much of 2011. Today, we’ll take a technical look at five tech sector names worth trading.
For the unfamiliar, 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.
Without further ado, here’s a look at five technology sector trading setups that could deliver breakout gains to your portfolio this week.
First up this week is Freescale Semiconductor (FSL), a $3.3 billion chipmaker that’s gotten shellacked in 2011. Shares of the firm have fallen more than 27% so far year-to-date, sending investors running for the hills. But this stock is showing signs that it may have found a bottom right now.
That’s thanks to an ascending triangle in shares of Freescale. Put simply, an ascending triangle is a technical pattern that’s identified by a horizontal resistance level above shares, and an uptrending support level below. In Freescale’s case, that resistance level is at $14 per share; the buy signal comes when shares break out above that resistance level.
Another positive factor in Freescale’s case is momentum -- 14-day RSI has been locked in an uptrend since the stock’s August 8 lows, a factor that confirms the bullish bias to this setup. Once shares break out above the $14 level, I’d recommend putting in a protective stop just below the 50-day moving average.
ON Semiconductor (ONNN) is a similarly-sized semiconductor company that’s showing traders a similar trading setup right now. There’s been a lot of attention on high correlations in the market lately -- it’s the idea that most stocks are essentially moving identically to major indices. But right now, high correlations among tech sector stocks are more compelling, particularly because the whole sector is basing right now.
Like Freescale, ON is an example of an ascending triangle setup. In the case of this stock, resistance is right at $8.25. A breakout above that price level tells us that traders have absorbed the glut of supply that’s previously existed above that level and that now buyers are “in control” of shares. Also like Freescale, ON is holding its uprtrend in 14-day RSI, an indicator that tells us that shares are continuing to accelerate as they make their way to test that resistance level.
The fact that the vast majority of the names on today’s list are showing us the same sort of basing pattern is a good sign. When correlations are high (as they are right now for tech stocks), a rising tide can lift all boats. So even if these individual names lack the fundamental news to drive them higher, they could still see material technical moves into 2012.
By and large, video game maker Electronic Arts (ERTS) is showing the same setup as the last two names, with a couple of exceptions.
The setup in Electronic Arts is a good example of an ascending triangle: it’s got that requisite horizontal resistance level to the upside (in this case at $25), and it’s got uptrending support that’s acting as a sort of “price floor” for shares. Like most of Electronic Arts’ peers, this stock has shown substantial relative strength versus the broad market, failing to make new lows in early October when the S&P 500 was testing 1,000. But there is a red flag that impacts this trade.
I’m talking about the trend line break in RSI back in early November. Remember, momentum is a leading indicator of share price, so a price break in RSI is a negative divergence that traders should take note of.
Ultimately, though, share price needs to be the trigger for any stock move. I’d still recommend planning to go long on a breakout above $25, but I’d also recommend going short if this pattern breaks and falls below its support line. If that happens, pattern lows at $18 look like a reasonable price target.
United States Cellular
Mobile phone carrier U.S. Cellular (USM) is an example of a stock that’s not really in the technology sector (although it does have considerable tech exposure), but is still showing extremely high correlations with the rest of the group. As a result, it makes sense to trade this name just like the rest.
U.S. Cellular is also forming an ascending triangle setup, in this case showing resistance at $43.50, and well defined support below share price levels -- support’s particularly strong in USM as it’s acted as a floor for shares the last four times it was tested. Ultimately, though, resistance is just as well defined, which is important since it’s the level we’re targeting for a breakout this month.
The fact that U.S. Cellular is closer to the apex of its triangle is significant; it means that shares are closer to that resistance price, and a breakout is considerably more likely. After all, every time USM touches $43.50, it’s absorbing some of that supply of shares that’s kept the stock from moving through that price level. When the breakout does happen, I’d recommend keeping a protective stop just below the 50-day moving average.
Last up this week is Symantec (SYMC), the sole name on the list that’s showing a different setup from the rest of the group. While Symantec is basing right now, its technicals are showing less directional bias than the other names.
Instead, this stock is forming an “if/then trade” right now. Basically, an if/then trade is a setup whose direction is contingent on the direction of a price breakout. So if shares of Symantec break out above resistance at $17.50, then it’s time to buy shares. If, on the other hand, shares break down below $15.50 support, then this stock is a short candidate. That either/or feature of this trade makes it like a slightly less-biased version of Electronic Arts right now.
Shares have broken out above the horizontal channel’s resistance level in the past -- if they do it again, that second resistance level at R2 becomes a good price target for traders. Either way this setup progresses, I’d recommend placing a protective stop just back within the channel.
To see these plays in action, check out the Technical Setups for the Week portfolio at 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.