Stock Quotes in this Article: LPNT, MLHR, NSM, NTRI, HCA

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. Many times when above average volume moves into equity it precedes a large spike in volatility.

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

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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.

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

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LifePoint Hospitals

LifePoint Hospitals (LPNT), through its subsidiaries, operates general acute care hospitals in non-urban communities in the U.S. This stock is trading up 6.7% at $41.05 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 731,000

Average Volume: 257,605

Volume % Change: 457%

Shares of LPNT are soaring today following the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the 2010 health care overhaul law. In a highly contested decision, the court ruled the health care law is Constitutional by a 5-4 majority.

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From a technical perspective, LPNT is skyrocketing here near its 200-day moving average of $37.92 with monster volume. This move has pushed LPNT into breakout territory, since the stock has moved above some near-term overhead resistance at $39.58 and briefly above more resistance at $41.

At last check, LPNT has hit an intraday high of $41.80 on volume that’s well above its three-month average action. Traders should now look to play the next major breakout trade for LPNT. That trade will trigger once LPNT takes out some past overhead resistance at $42.19 with high volume.

Traders should look for long-biased trades if LPNT is trending above $41 and if it can sustain a move or close above $42.19 with volume that’s near or above 257,605 shares. If we get that action soon, then LPNT should re-test and possibly take out its next major overhead resistance level at $43.45.

John B. Sanfilippo & Sons

John B. Sanfilippo & Sons (JBSS) is a processor and marketer of tree nuts and peanuts in the U.S. These nuts are sold under a variety of private labels and under the Fisher, Orchard Valley Harvest and Sunshine Country brand names. This stock is trading up 3.5% at $16.91 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 69,000

Average Volume: 59,775

Volume % Change: 85%

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From a technical perspective, JBSS is moving modestly higher here with slightly above average volume. This move has pushed JBSS into breakout territory and new 52-week-high territory, since the stock has started to move above some near-term overhead resistance at $16.11.

Traders should continue to look for long-biased trades as long as JBSS is trending above $16.11 to $15.64 with strong upside volume flows. I would consider any upside volume day that registers near or above 59,775 shares as bullish. If we continue to see that action, then JBSS could hit $20 or higher in the near future.

NutriSystem

NutriSystem (NTRI) is a provider of a weight management system. NutriSystem’s customers purchase monthly food packages containing a 28-day supply of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and desserts, which they supplement with dairy, fruit, salad, vegetables and low-glycemic carbohydrate items. This stock is trading up 3% at $11.45 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 447,000

Average Volume: 347,406

Volume % Change: 150%

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From a technical perspective, NTRI is ripping higher here back above its 200-day moving average of $11.39 with above average volume. This move is quickly pushing NTRI within range of triggering a major breakout trade. That trade will hit once NTRI takes out some past overhead resistance at $11.70 to $11.73 with high volume.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades once NTRI sustains a move or close above those levels with volume that’s near or above 347,406 shares. If we get that action soon, then NTRI could easily re-visit its next significant overhead resistance level at $13.98, or even its 2012 high of $15.05.

Air Methods

Air Methods (AIRM) is a provider of air medical emergency transport services and systems throughout the U.S. This stock is trading up 5.6% at $94.53 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 194,000

Average Volume: 79,003

Volume % Change: 317%

From a technical perspective, AIRM is ripping higher here back above its 50-day moving average of $89.41 with monster volume. This move has pushed the stock into breakout territory, since AIRM has moved above some near-term overhead resistance levels at $92.09 to $94.95. At last check, AIRM has hit an intraday high of $96.11 and volume is well above its three-month average action.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades once AIRM sustains a move or close above $94.95 and above today’s high of $96.11 with high-volume. I would consider any upside volume day that registers near or above 79,003 shares as bullish. If we continue to see AIRM trending above those levels, then this stock should trade north of $100. Keep in mind that any move over $96.11 will now be an all-time high for AIRM, which is bullish technical price action.

HCA Holdings

HCA Holdings (HCA) is a holding company whose affiliates owns and operates hospitals and related health care entities. This stock is trading up 9.3% at $29.09 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 15.2 million

Average Volume: 3 million

Volume % Change: 1,000%

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From a technical perspective, HCA is soaring higher here right off its 50-day moving average of $26.32 with monster volume. This move has briefly pushed HCA into breakout territory, since the stock has taken out some near-term overhead resistance at $28.17, and since it’s challenged some past resistance at $29.30. At last check, HCA has tagged an intraday high of $29.75 with volume that’s significantly above its three-month average.

Traders should now look for long-biased trades as long as HCA is trending above $29.30 and $29.75 with strong upside volume flows. I would consider any upside volume day that’s near or above 2,970,000 shares as bullish. If we continue to see that trend, then HCA could re-fill a gap-down in price from 2011 that takes this stock back towards $35.

Herman Miller

Herman Miller (MLHR) researches, designs, manufactures and distributes interior furnishings, for use in various environments, including office, healthcare, educational and residential settings, and provides related services that support organizations and individuals all over the world. This stock is trading up 4.3% at $17.44 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 386,000

Average Volume: 317,117

Volume % Change: 112%

Shares of MLHR are ripping higher here despite the fact that the company reported a 30% drop in fourth-quarter earnings amid $5.4 million in restructuring and write-down expenses as the company also reported a drop in sales and a higher-than-expected effective tax rate.

From a technical perspective, MLHR is jumping higher here right off its recent low of $16.03 with above average volume. This move has pushed MLHR into breakout territory, since shares are starting to take out some near-term overhead resistance at $17.43.

Traders should now look for the next major breakout trade to trigger for MLHR. That trade will hit once MLHR takes out some near-term overhead resistance at $18.49 and $19.07 with high-volume. Look for a sustained move or close above those levels with volume that’s near or above 317,117 shares. Keep in mind that this stock’s 50-day is at $18.38 and its 200-day sits at $20. If we get that action soon, then MLHR could trade up towards $21 to $22.

On the flipside, I would avoid this stock or look for short-biased trades if it fails at its 50-day, and then takes out that recent low of $16.03 with heavy volume.

Nationstar Mortgage

Nationstar Mortgage (NSM) is a non-bank residential mortgage servicer with a range of services across the residential mortgage product spectrum. This stock is trading up 2.2% at $20.93 in recent trading.

Today’s Volume: 445,000

Average Volume: 592,177

Volume % Change: 75%.

From a technical perspective, NSM is moving modestly higher here with decent volume. This move is triggering extremely bullish action since NSM is breaking out to new all-time highs. Shares of NSM have started to break out above some near-term overhead resistance at $20.27 to $20.36. At last check, NSM has hit an intraday high of $21.20 and volume is just below its three-month average action.

Nationstar MortgageTraders should continue to look for long-biased trades as long as NSM is trending above $20.27 to $20.36, and above $21.20 with strong upside volume flows. I would consider any upside volume day that registers near or above 592,177 shares as bullish. If we continue to see that action, then NSM could hit $25 to $30 in the near future.

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 stocks, options, futures, commodities and currencies. He is also an outside contributor to Beconequity.com and maintains the website Maddmoney.net, which he sold to Blue Wave Advisors in 2008. Roberto studied International Business at The Milwaukee School of Engineering, and he spent a year overseas studying business in Lubeck, Germany.