Stock Quotes in this Article: AGX, BX, LGND, MDSO, NGLS, SLGN

WINDERMERE, Fla. (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.

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Major moves in volume can signal unusual activity, such as insider buying or selling -- or buying or selling by “superinvestors.”

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.

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With that in mind, let's take a look at several stocks rising on unusual volume today.

Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND)

This company focuses on drug discovery & early-stage development of pharmaceuticals that address critical unmet medical needs or that are more effective or safer than existing therapies, more convenient to administer & are cost effective. This stock is trading up 14% at $19.02 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 957,000

Average Volume: 85,914

Volume % Change: 1346%

Shares of LGND are soaring today after the FDA approved PROMACTA for the treatment of low blood platelet counts in patients with chronic hepatitis C.

From a technical perspective, LGND is exploding higher here back above its 50-day moving average of $17.17 with monster volume. This move has also pushed LGND into breakout territory, since the stock has taken out some near-term overhead resistance levels at $10 to $19. Shares of LGND are now moving within range of another major breakout trade. That trade will hit once LGND manages to take out some past overhead resistance at $19.85 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in LGND as long as it’s trending above $18, and then once it sustains a move or close above $19.85 with volume that hits near or above 85,914 shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then LGND will set up to trend north of $20. Keep in mind that any move above $19.85 will push LGND into new 52-week high territory, which is bullish technical price action.

Medidata Solutions (MDSO)

This company provides hosted clinical development solutions that enhance the efficiency of its customers' clinical development processes and optimize their research and development investments. This stock is trading up 1.1% at $41.65 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 639,000

Average Volume: 154,081
Volume % Change: 452%

From a technical perspective, MDSO is bouncing strongly here right off its 50-day moving average of $39.72 with above-average volume. This stock has been uptrending very strong for the last six months, with shares rising from a low of $26.91 to its recent high of $43.20. During that uptrend, shares of MDSO have been consistently making higher lows and higher highs, which is bullish technical price action. That move has now pushed MDSO within range of triggering a breakout trade. That trade will hit once MDSO manages to take out some near-term overhead resistance at $43.20.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in MDSO as long as it’s trending near or above its 50-day at $39.72, and then once it sustains a move or close above $43.20 with volume that hits near or above 154,081 shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then look for MDSO will set up to trend up towards $45 to $50 in the near future. Keep in mind that any move above $43.79 will push MDSO into new 52-week high territory, which is bullish technical price action.

Silgan (SLGN)

This company is a manufacturer of metal and plastic consumer goods packaging products. This stock is trading up 4.3% at $43.15 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 384,000

Average Volume: 176,314

Volume % Change: 169%

From a technical perspective, SLGN is ripping higher here back above its 50-day at $42.75 and its 200-day at $42.78 with above-average volume. This move is quickly pushing SLGN within range of triggering a major breakout trade. That trade will hit once SLGN manages to take out some past overhead resistance levels at $44.37 to $44.99 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in SLGN as long as it’s trending above its 50-day at $42.75, and then once it sustains a move or close above those breakout levels with volume that hits near or above 176,314 shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then look for SLGN to re-test or possibly take out its next major overhead resistance level at $46.12.

Targa Resources Partners (NGLS)

This company is engaged in the business of gathering, compressing, treating, processing and selling natural gas and fractionating and selling natural gas liquids and NGL products. This stock is trading up 2% at $36.33 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 2.16 million

Average Volume: 438,973

Volume % Change: 617%

From a technical perspective, NGLS is bouncing higher here with heavy upside volume. This stock recently gapped down from over $40 to its recent low of $34.76 with high volume. Following that move, shares of NGLS have started to rebound and the stock is now approaching a near-term breakout trade. That trade will hit once NGLS manages to clear its gap down day high of $36.67 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in NGLS once it sustains a move or close above $36.67 with volume that hits near or above 438,973 shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then NGLS will set up to re-test or possibly take out its next major overhead resistance levels at $39.36 to $41.18. On the flipside, traders should look for short-biased trades if NGLS fails to trigger that breakout and then drops back below its near-term support at $34.76 with high volume.

Argan (AGX)

This company provides a range of development, consulting, engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning, operating and maintenance services to the power energy market. This stock is trading up 1.5% at $18.59 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 225,000

Average Volume: 76,305

Volume % Change: 163%

From a technical perspective, AGX is bouncing modestly higher here right above its 50-day moving average of $17.36 with heavy upside volume. This move has also started to push AGX into breakout territory, since the stock has taken out some near-term overhead resistance at $18.60. At last check, AGX has hit an intraday high of $18.93 and volume is well above its three-month average action of 76,305 shares.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in AGX as long as it’s trending above $17.36, and then once it sustains a move or close above $18.60 to $18.93 with volume that hits near or above 76,305 shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then AGX will set up to trend north of $20 in the near future.

Blackstone Group (BX)

This company is a global alternative asset manager and a provider of financial advisory services. This stock is trading up 5.6% at $14.40 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 5.52 million

Average Volume: 3 million

Volume % Change: 130%

From a technical perspective, BX is bouncing strongly higher here right off its 200-day moving average of $13.85 with above-average volume. This move is coming after BX recently dropped from its high of $15.73 to its recent low of $13.31 with heavy downside volume. The action today is now pushing BX within range of triggering a near-term breakout trade. That trade will hit once BX manages to take out its 50-day moving average of $14.63 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades in BX as long as it’s trending above its 200-day at $13.85, and then once it sustains a move or close above its 50-day at $14.63 with volume that hits near or above 3 million shares. If that breakout triggers soon, then BX will set up to re-test or possibly take out its next major overhead resistance levels at $15.50 to $15.74.

To see more stocks rising on unusual volume, check out the Stocks Rising On Unusual Volume portfolio on Stockpickr.

-- Written by Roberto Pedone in Winderemere, Fla.

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At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Roberto Pedone, based out of Windermere, Fla., 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.