The stage is set for a December rate hike following the Federal Reserve's decision to leave interest rates unchanged yet again on Wednesday. And so, with the Federal Reserve's policy statement out of the way this week, the path is clear for the election to retake the reins as the biggest potential black cloud hovering over the stock market this fall...
But while most investors fixate on next Tuesday's vote, it's important to remember that not all stocks are stuck in a rut with the news cycle right now.
In fact, some of the biggest names on Wall Street are teetering on the edge of breakout territory this week. These mega-cap trades could fuel some equally big gains for your portfolio in the final two months of 2016. So, to figure out which big stocks you should own - and when to buy them - we're turning to the charts for a technical look.
First, a quick note on the technical toolbox we're using here: technical analysis is a study of the market itself. Since the market is ultimately the only mechanism that determines a stock's price, technical analysis is a valuable tool even in the roughest of trading conditions. Technical charts are used every day by proprietary trading floors, Wall Street's biggest financial firms, and individual investors to get an edge on the market. And research shows that skilled technical traders can bank gains as much as 90% of the time.
Every week, I take an in-depth look at big names that are telling important technical stories. Here's this week's look at five big stocks to trade...
HSBC Holdings plc
Up first is financial services giant HSBC Holdings plc (HSBC) - Get Report. This big bank stock is down 6% since the start of the year, but that year-to-date performance stat masks a more recent rally that's been taking shape in shares; since bottoming in late June, HSBC is up about 28%. Don't worry if you've missed out on that upside so far - this big financial stock is closing in on a breakout buy signal in November.
HSBC is currently forming an ascending triangle pattern, a bullish continuation setup that's formed by horizontal resistance up above shares at $38.50, and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as HSBC bounces in between those two technically important price levels, it's been getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout through that aforementioned $38.50 price ceiling. When that breakout happens, we've got our buy signal.
HSBC's relative strength line, down at the bottom of the price chart, adds some extra confidence to the prospect of a buy signal in this stock. That's because HSBC's relative strength has been in an uptrend of its own since this summer's price bottom, indicating that shares have been outperforming the rest of the market ever since. In other words, the recent upside in this stock hasn't been because of market conditions - it's been in spite of them. Once $38.50 gets taken out, it makes sense to buy HSBC.
We're seeing the exact same setup taking shape right now in shares of London-based oil and gas giant BP plc (BP) - Get Report. Like HSBC, BP has been forming an ascending triangle setup, in this case on a longer-term timeframe. For BP, the big breakout level to watch is resistance up at $36.
What's so special about that $36 price level? Put simply, it identifies a crucial level for buyers and sellers. While the ascending triangle pattern on BP's chart is a useful way to identify where the buy signal happens, simply drawing lines on a chart isn't the thing that makes it tradable. Instead, the "why" for BP comes down to basic supply and demand for this stock's shares themselves.
The $36 resistance level is a price where there has been an excess of supply of shares; in other words, it's a spot where sellers have been more eager to step in and take gains than buyers have been to buy. That's what makes a breakout above $36 so significant - the move means that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level. So, once BP manages to definitively move above $36, it's time to join the buyers...
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
$45 billion pharma company Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA) - Get Reportis the relative small-fry on our list of big-cap breakout trades. But it wasn't long ago that this stock was a lot bigger. Year-to-date, Teva has shed almost 35% of its market value, underperforming the broad market averages and dragging down investors' performance in a big way. It's not all bad, though - Teva is finally looking "bottomy" after all that underperformance. Here's how to trade it:
Teva is currently forming a double bottom pattern, a bullish reversal setup that looks just like it sounds. The double bottom is formed by a pair of swing lows that bottom out at approximately the same price level. The buy signal comes on a breakout through the peak that separates our pair of troughs; in Teva's case, that breakout level to watch comes in at $44. This is a short-term trading setup, and it comes with relatively quick trading implications - that's good reason to keep a very close eye on TEVA as shares sit within striking distance of their $44 resistance level this week.
Price momentum, measured by 14-day RSI up at the top of Teva's chart, adds some extra evidence to the reversal that's finally forming in shares. Our momentum gauge has made a pair of higher lows at the same time Teva was carving out its double bottom, a bullish divergence that signals buying pressure has been building behind the scenes. Once Teva breaks $44, buying shares becomes the high-probability trade.
You don't have to be a technical trading wiz to figure out what's happening in shares of Japanese telco NTT Group (NTT) - instead, this big stock is showing off a price pattern that's about as simple as they get. Since February, NTT has been bouncing its way higher in a well-defined uptrend, and it's testing a major buy-zone again this week.
NTT's uptrend is formed by a pair of parallel trendlines that have managed to corral almost all of this stock's price action over that eight month stretch. Put simply, every test of the bottom of the channel over that uptrend period has provided a low-risk, high-reward buying opportunity in NTT. So, as shares touch that same support level for a ninth time here, it makes sense to buy the next bounce higher.
At a glance, NTT's chart seems to have an abundance of price gaps. Don't let that choppy trading get in the way of buying the next leg higher in NTT. Those gaps, called suspension gaps, occur because NTT Group's shares trade off U.S. hours on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. From a technical standpoint, they're not significant.
Royal Dutch Shell
Last up on our list of potential big-cap breakouts is energy giant Royal Dutch Shell plc . Shell has actually been a strong name to own in 2016, rallying more than 16% thanks to a broad rebound in the energy sector. And while shares have given back almost 7% of their maximum gains since Shell peaked in mid-July, this stock actually looks ready to make a second try for highs this fall.
Shell is currently forming an inverse head and shoulders pattern, a bullish reversal setup that signals exhaustion among sellers. The pattern is formed by two swing lows that bottom out at approximately the same level (the shoulders), separated by a lower low (the head). The buy signal comes on a move through Shell's neckline, currently up at $56. Shares are making their move back towards that price line this week. Once this stock breaks above $56, we've got our signal that the recent correction in Shell is over, and the buyers are back in control of this stock.
Remember to be reactionary with Royal Dutch Shell, or any of the other potential breakout trades on our list that haven't crossed that threshold yet. Technical analysis is a risk-management tool, not a crystal ball - and Shell doesn't become a high-probability buy until shares can crack above the $56 price level.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.