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Three Ways to Play the January Effect

Stocks in this article: NVDA STEC BPZ

1. Sell Short Nvidia

Nvidia (NVDA)
Sell short Nvidia (NVDA) on or near the last trading day of the year and cover into January selling pressure. This stock has been going vertical in recent weeks and has now filled a huge July 2008 gap between $13 and $18. This is a natural sell zone that combines with the likelihood of a January pullback in chip stocks, which are now bona fide market leaders.

This is a high-risk play for experienced traders with solid risk management skills. If you're interested in the trade, keep position size small and place a stop loss above this week's high in order to avoid a January "jolt" prior to a decline. This leadership issue shows unfilled gaps near $16 and $14. These holes mark obvious price levels to take profits.

2. Buy a Basket of Small-Cap Losers

I've compiled a list of higher-volume Russell 2000 index components trading over $3 with the weakest relative strength heading into year-end. Buy a basket of three, four or five of these issues to take advantage of small-cap seasonality and the end of tax-loss selling pressure. Keep total dollar exposure in each component uniform to manage risk across the basket.

The basket should be held in one unit into the third or fourth week of January, with a total dollar stop loss, which sells all positions at once if the trade fails. In other words, don't try to time the market and reconfigure the basket because one stock has a bad day. When the target date is reached, close out all positions or keep a few winners to play into February and March.

This list of Russell 2000 losers could make a basket trade worth the risk:

  • Novatel Wireless (NVTL)
  • Huron Consulting (HURN)
  • Englobal ENG
  • Sequenom (SQNM)
  • Cathay General Bancorp (CATY)
  • Eagle Bulk Shipping (EGLE)
  • Isis Pharmaceuticals (ISIS)
  • Energy Conversion Devices (ENER)
  • Pantry (PTRY)

3. Find Small-Cap Winners

The turnaround play is a great way to trade the January market, but an even better strategy is to find the next hot stock while it's still in its embryonic stage, waiting to be discovered by the chat room crowd. For this strategy, I flipped through weekly charts of Russell components, picking out issues that look poised for even higher prices.

These Russell 2000 small-caps could break out in early 2010:

  • Uranium Energy (UEC)
  • Ulta Salon (ULTA)
  • Aruba Networks (ARUN)
  • Valassis Communications (VCI)
  • China Information Security Technology (CPBY)
  • SuccessFactors (SFSF)
  • Switch and Data Facilities (SDXC)
  • Ticketmaster (TKTM)
  • BPZ Resources (BPZ)
  • Omnova Solutions (OMN)
Happy New Year, everyone!

Please note that due to factors including low market capitalization and/or insufficient public float, we consider NVTL, HURN, ENG, SQNM, CATY, EGLE, ENER, PTRY, UEC, CPBY and OMN to be small-cap stocks. You should be aware that such stocks are subject to more risk than stocks of larger companies, including greater volatility, lower liquidity and less publicly available information, and that postings such as this one can have an effect on their stock prices.

At the time of publication, Farley had no positions in the stocks mentioned, although holdings can change at any time.

Alan Farley is a private trader and publisher of Hard Right Edge, a comprehensive resource for trader education, technical analysis, and short-term trading techniques. He is also the author of The Daily Swing Trade, a premium product from that outlines his charts and analysis. Farley has also been featured in Barron's, SmartMoney, Tech Week, Active Trader, MoneyCentral, Technical Investor, Bridge Trader and Online Investor. He has written two books: The Master Swing Trader and The Master Swing Trader Toolkit: The Market Survival Guide, due out in April. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks.

Farley appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email. Also, click here to sign up for Farley's premium subscription product, The Daily Swing Trade, brought to you exclusively by has a revenue-sharing relationship with Trader's Library under which it receives a portion of the revenue from purchases by customers directed there from

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