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5 Trades to Take From the Health Care Sector - views
BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- While Congress battles it out over Obamacare on Capitol Hill, tradable setups are popping up in health care stocks.
At the end of the day, all of the shenanigans that caused the government shutdown can be traced back to health care. But while most investors remain fixated on the headlines, some big trades are beginning to play out in that very sector. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise: With the broad market coming down to test its key long-term support level this month, we're reaching an area that's been a buying opportunity every time since last November.
So, if stocks bounce from here, then investors should expect a very good time to be long. That's why, today, we're taking a look at five tradable technical setups in the health care sector.
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.
So, without further ado, let's take a look at five technical setups worth trading now.
First up is $4 billion biopharmaceutical firm Theravance (THRX). It's been one heck of a year already for THRX's shareholders. Since the calendar flipped over to January, shares of the firm have rallied more than 75%. But the setup forming in shares points to even higher ground for the final quarter of 2013.
That's because Theravance is currently forming an ascending triangle pattern, a bullish setup that's formed by a horizontal resistance level above shares at $42 and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as Theravance bounces in between those two technical levels, it's getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout above that $42 resistance level. When that happens, traders have a buy signal.
Whenever you're looking at any technical price pattern, it's critical to think in terms of those buyers and sellers. Ascending triangles and other pattern names are a good quick way to explain what's going on in a stock, but they're not the reason it's tradable. Instead, it all comes down to supply and demand for shares.
That $42 is a price where there has been an excess of supply of shares; in other words, it's a place where sellers have been more eager to step in and take gains than buyers have been to buy. That's what makes a breakout above it so significant -- the move means that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level.
Don't be early on this trade.
Things don't look quite so rosy over at big pharma firm AstraZeneca (AZN). Shares of the $64 billion pharma stock are up on the year, but only by around 8%, which means that the drugmaker is underperforming the S&P 500 by close to 10% in the last nine months. That's a serious miss.
But a double-top pattern in shares could spell more on the horizon. The double top is a bearish pattern that's formed by two swing highs that peter out around the same level. Between them, a breakdown level is formed that identifies the trigger for shorts. In this case, it comes into play right around $46.50. A drop through that $46.50 level means that it's time to unload shares or outright bet against them.
That doesn't mean that lower levels are a foregone conclusion at this point, though. For now, the long-term uptrend is still intact in AZN. But that doesn't mean that signals are conflicting here; by the time the breakdown level gets violated, the uptrend in AstraZeneca will have been long gone.
You don't have to be an expert technical analyst to figure out what's going on in shares of Edwards Lifesciences (EW) -- a quick glance at the chart should be enough. Lucky for shareholders, this stock hasn't been living up to its ticker symbol. Since bottoming in May, EW has been bouncing higher in a textbook uptrending channel.
Edwards' channel gives traders a high-probability range for shares to trade within. And while there's really no bad time to buy a stock that's in an uptrend, the ideal time to jump in comes on a bounce off of trendline support. Buying off a support bounce makes sense for two big reasons: it's the spot where shares have the furthest to move up before they hit resistance, and it's the spot where the risk is the least (because shares have the least room to move lower before you know you're wrong).
Momentum, measured by 14-day RSI, broke its near-term downtrend at the start of the month, and it's been moving higher ever since. Because momentum is a leading indicator of price, that looks good for this trade.
All uptrends break eventually, though, and C. R. Bard's (BCR) price action does a pretty good job of demonstrating that. Shares of the $9 billion medical device maker had been forming an uptrending channel of their own for three months -- until the breakdown a couple of weeks ago invalidated the setup, that is.
That also makes BCR a good cautionary tale of why it makes sense to buy uptrends after a support bounce, not in anticipation of one. A broken bullish setup is typically just as big of a red flag as an outright bearish one. That means that the sell signal in BCR triggered once shares closed below trendline support. While shares haven't moved a whole lot lower in the sessions since, that just means that there's still a lot of room below for shares to slip.
Momentum on this chart is a mirror image of the RSI line in Edwards Lifesciences: The uptrend gave way to a downtrend, and that is pushing the gauge into oversold territory. Don't make the common mistake with momentum: oversold doesn't mean that a stock is due to bounce. Stocks that go oversold are statistically more likely to keep moving oversold in the near term. Caveat emptor.
We'll end on a high note with mid-cap pharma stock Aegerion Pharmaceuticals (AEGR).
After a jaw-dropping 263% rally since the start of the year, AEGR is actually showing signs of more upside to come. While that sounds implausible at first glance, it's important to remember that all 300% and 400% rallies were 263% rallied at some point along the way. The pattern in play in AEGR is an inverse head and shoulders setup with a neckline at $100.
The inverse head and shoulders pattern is a bullish setup that indicates exhaustion among sellers. After such a big move higher, it's pretty easy to see why sellers are getting worn out at this point. The pattern is formed by two swing lows that bottom out at approximately the same level (shoulders) separated by a deeper low (the head). The buy signal comes on a move through the neckline at $100. Even though AEGR's setup hasn't completely formed the right shoulder, consider any close through that $100 level a buy.
Round-number resistance levels, like the even $100 neckline in AEGR, aren't uncommon. Since they represent big milestones in investors' minds, they're more likely to be sticking points and order levels for traders than other numbers are. Keep an eye on that $100 price in October.
To see this week's trades 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, CMT, is a senior market analyst at Agora Financial in Baltimore and a contributor to TheStreet. Before that, he managed a portfolio of stocks for an investment advisory returned 15% in 2008. He has been featured in Forbes , Investor's Business Daily, and on CNBC.com. Jonas holds a degree in financial economics from UMBC and the Chartered Market Technician designation.
Follow Jonas on Twitter @JonasElmerraji