Since the calendar flipped to January, this aluminum producer has seen its share price backslide 21.8%. As if the trend weren't bad enough on an absolute basis, Alcoa has been completely trounced on a relative basis - year-to-date, the big S&P 500 is sitting on total returns of 20%.
But now, as the broad market averages appear to teeter near all-time highs and investors question whether the value factor is suddenly going to take favor over momentum stocks for the first time in a decade, some folks might feel compelled to give Alcoa a second look.
Has this stock become a bargain at current levels? And if so, is it cheap enough to make up for the impact of a trade war and macroeconomic headwinds?
Or maybe there's a more straightforward question to ask here...
Forget about the business for a second. Arguably, the real question that any investor should be asking about Alcoa (or any other beaten-down name in 2019), cheap or not, is what the likelihood is that the stock will continue to get even cheaper in the near-to-intermediate term.
To answer that question, we're turning to the chart for a technical look.
At a glance, it's hard to miss the clear-cut downtrend that's harangued shares of Alcoa for about the last year and a half. It doesn't take a trading veteran to figure out that this is precisely the type of chart that most investors don't want in their portfolios.
The problem is not just that Alcoa has been pointing lower. It's the fact that the selloff has been extremely well defined in the context of a downtrending channel. Simply put, every test of trendline resistance on the way down has swatted shares lower. That's an indication that overhead supply of shares remains an issue for an Alcoa comeback - and that sellers are getting increasingly aggressive about taking the ask.
Elsewhere, we've been in a stellar market; it's been the best start to a calendar year-to-date through Sept. 26 in more than two decades. And that makes relative strength all the more important here. It's not enough to own stocks that are working in this market. Generally, they've got to be working better than the benchmark. Alcoa has been the polar opposite of that.
While we saw a small uptick in relative strength earlier this month as shares rebounded to test (and fail at) trendline resistance, Alcoa's performance vs. the S&P has been trending lower again more recently.
That means Alcoa's performance gap vs. the broad market isn't an artifact of a rough quarter at the start of the year. It's ongoing.
If Alcoa can muster the strength to catch and sustain a bid materially above its trendline, then shares could actually muster a pretty decent rebound rally, thanks to mean reversion alone. But we're far from that point right now.
Until that changes, it makes sense to steer clear of Alcoa.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.