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5 Year-End Tech Trades - views
BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- Stocks look ready to rebound a bit from Monday's dip today, as the final trading week of the year draws nearer to an end.
This week is also historically the quietest trading week of the year, a fact that may not hold true for 2012 as the fiscal cliff continues to grab the headlines and the calendar counts down to 2013. With negotiations resuming tomorrow to figure out a solution to the combined tax hike and spending cut, it still looks likely that this thing will get resolved before Auld Lang Syne starts playing. Hopefully the politicians involved got enough coal in their stockings yesterday to spur things along.
With all of that in mind, most investors are looking away from the markets this week. But even though we're in a quiet week for stocks, that doesn't mean that there aren't still some big trading opportunities to take advantage of.
That's why we're taking a technical look at the five setups that have the tradable price setups right now.
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 from the technology sector worth trading now.
2012 has been a pretty mediocre year to own Microsoft (MSFT). Even though the technology giant has climbed 4.24% so far this year, that performance is awful compared to the nearly 14% climb the rest of the S&P 500 saw over that same period. But Microsoft's chart indicates that could change…
For the last few weeks, Microsoft's price has been consolidating sideways in a rounding bottom pattern. A rounding bottom looks exactly like its name suggests: it's a U-shaped curve that connects the swing lows for a stock. A horizontal resistance level that connects the highs is our breakout level to watch -- in MSFT's case, it comes in at $27.75. That means that a break above that $27.75 level is the buy signal for this stock right now.
The fact that a move above $27.75 would coincide with a break of the downtrend that's been holding shares lower since September is important -- it magnifies the upside potential for shares by removing another important upside barrier. Momentum adds some extra confidence to this trade -- 14-day RSI has been trending higher since the bottoming started. Since momentum is a leading indicator of price, that's a good sign that MSFT is likely to test $27.75 this week…
We're seeing another bottoming pattern forming in shares of Micron Technology (MU). Like Microsoft, Micron has underperformed the broad market this year, barely breaking even between the first trading day of January and today. But a long-term double bottom formation in shares is a sign that shareholders could be getting a reprieve from selling very soon.
A double bottom is a price pattern that's formed by two swing lows that bottom out at approximately the same price level. The two bottoms are separated by a peak that marks that resistance level for the setup -- a breakout above that price (right around $7 for MU) is the buy signal for shares. It's worth noting that resistance in Micron is actually tougher than just a single peak: that $7 barrier has been acting like strong resistance on the last five attempts higher. Believe it or not, that's actually a good thing because it means that a breakout above resistance carries more technical significance for MU.
Remember that this is a long-term pattern -- it's been forming since all the way back in April, so its trading implications are bigger too. The breakout above $7 is likely to come with a long-term shift towards buyers being in control of this stock…
Symantec (SYMC) is having a better year in 2012. Shares of the $13 billion computer security firm have rallied around 18% year-to-date, besting the broad market's performance by a slight margin. Much of Symantec's performance came in the late Summer, when the stock gapped up and started moving higher extremely quickly.
But that straight-up trajectory wasn't sustainable, so shares have spent the last couple of months consolidating sideways in a price channel. Sideways consolidation isn't a bad thing -- it just means that investors are trying to catch their breath after a big volatile run. With resistance coming in at $19.25, buyers have a pretty well defined signal that the rest is over for SYMC and another rally leg is beginning. I wouldn't recommend buying until then.
Remember, these setups all come down to supply and demand from buyers and sellers. After the huge push higher at the end of the summer, sellers started coming in at $19.25 -- it was a price where sellers were more eager to sell and take gains than buyers were to keep buying. That's why the breakout above $19.25 is a buy signal; a breakout indicates that buyers have gained enough strength to absorb all of the excess supply above $19.25.
Without that upside barrier, this stock should be able to keep running higher…
Mid-cap software firm Aspen Technology (AZON) is forming a channel of its own, with a twist. Instead of consolidating sideways like Symantec, Aspen has been bouncing higher in an uptrending channel. That uptrend gives traders a high-probability range for shares to move through.
Aspen's trend channel has been intact since the beginning of the summer, as shares pinballed in between the glut of demand for shares at trendline support and the glut of supply at resistance. The fact that support has stopped the decline in shares the last five times it's been tested bodes well for the strength of that line going forward. Any stock in an uptrending channel presents a buying opportunity, but for risk-averse investors, the best time to buy comes after a bounce off of support.
That bounce is important because all support levels do eventually fail, and when they do, you don't want to be left holding the bag -- it shows that AZPN can still catch a bid at support before you buy. If you decide to be a buyer, I'd recommend keeping a protective stop just below the 50-day moving average.
The sole downside setup we're looking at today is communications giant Verizon (VZ). Even though Verizon isn't a tech stock in the traditional sense, its exposure to mobile phone sales and its scale as an internet service provider means that its price action correlates highly with the rest of the tech sector. But more recently, that correlation has decoupled thanks to a topping pattern in shares.
Verizon is forming a head and shoulders top right now, a bearish pattern that indicates exhaustion among buyers. The head and shoulders is formed by two swing highs that top out around the same level (the shoulders), separated by a bigger peak called the head. A breakdown below the pattern's support level, called the neckline, triggers the sell signal for this stock. For Verizon, the sell signal comes in right at $41.50…
The head and shoulders may be a popular pattern, but it's also a potent one: a recent academic study conducted by the Reserve Board of New York found that the results of 10,000 computer-simulated head-and-shoulders trades resulted in “profits [that] would have been both statistically and economically significant.” That's a good reason to keep an eye on how this stock trades for the next week.
To see this week's trades in action, check out the Technical Setups for the Week portfolio on Stockpickr.
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.