U.S. stocks are staying in a tight range as the calendar flips over to August. According to LPL Financial's Ryan Detrick, the sideways churn in the S&P 500 has stayed within a range of just 1.04%, the smallest span for that timeframe since 1972.
But just because the big indices are trading flat doesn't mean the individual stocks are.
Over that extremely low-volatility stretch, we've actually seen some pretty active trading in a meaningful chunk of the S&P: About 40% of S&P 500 components have actually moved at least 4% on an absolute basis during that timeframe. And just about 20% of S&P components are up or down 7% or more. But the nearly even split between winners and losers has been hiding most of that price action from the broad market indices.
Translation: Breakouts are happening. They're just being hidden by the breakdowns.
To find the stocks you actually should own in this market, we're turning to the charts for a technical look at five stocks that are teetering on the edge of breakout territory this week.
In case you're unfamiliar with technical analysis, here's the executive summary: Technical analysis is a way for investors to quantify qualitative factors, such as investor psychology, based on a stock's price action and trends. Once the domain of cloistered trading teams on Wall Street, technicals can help top traders make consistently profitable trades and can aid fundamental investors in better planning their stock execution.
Without further ado, here's a rundown of five technical setups that are showing solid upside potential right now.
One market that's been no stranger to volatility has been Russia -- and $6.6 billion Russian search engine giant Yandex(YNDX) - Get Report is one of the easiest ways for U.S. investors to take advantage of that price action right now. Yandex has been a strong performer year-to-date, up more than 35% since the calendar flipped to January. But don't worry if you've missed that upside move; this stock looks ready to kick off a second leg higher in August.
Yandex is currently forming an ascending triangle pattern, a bullish continuation setup that's formed by horizontal resistance up above shares at $23, and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as Yandex bounces in between those two technically significant price levels, shares have been getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout through their $23 price ceiling. When that happens, we've got a clear-cut buy signal in this Russian search site.
Relative strength, which measures Yandex's price performance versus the broad market, adds some extra confidence to the possibility of a break above $23. Our relative strength line, down at the bottom of the price chart, has been in an uptrend since the beginning of the year, confirming that this stock is still outperforming the S&P even at this point. Once $23 gets taken out, it makes sense to join the buyers in Yandex.
We're seeing the same price setup right now in shares of $9.1 billion fertilizer company Mosaic(MOS) - Get Report . At a glance, Mosaic hasn't done much in 2016. In fact, shares are still below their starting point from January. But zoom into the chart a bit, and shares are forming an ascending triangle setup off of their February lows. For Mosaic, the key breakout level to watch is resistance up at $30.
Why does $30 matter so much? The $30 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 $30 so significant -- the move means that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level.
Longer-term, Mosaic has been a stock under pressure. Since the start of 2015, for instance, this stock has lost about 42% of its market value. That big prolonged decline could set the stage for a more meaningful upside move in Mosaic this year -- but it's still critical to be reactionary with this trade. The breakout above $30 is our signal that buyers are back in control of shares.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries(TEVA) - Get Report is another stock that's been hard on shareholders in the long-term. This stock has lost almost a quarter of its market value in the last year, selling off hard from its highs last August. The good news is that this big pharma firm could finally be ready for a rebound this summer; shares are looking "bottomy" in the long-term.
Teva is currently forming a double bottom, a bullish reversal setup that looks just like it sounds. The double bottom is formed by a pair of swing lows that find support at approximately the same price level; for Teva, those bottoms came in May, and again in late June. The buy signal comes on a push above $55 resistance, the high that separates that pair of lows. Teva has spent the last couple of weeks flirting with that $55 level, but we'll need to see shares definitively catch a bid above that line in the sand before it becomes a high-probability buy.
This isn't the only pharma stock that's showing off a double bottom pattern this summer -- and the fact that several actively-traded drug stocks are showing investors similar setups could help increase the efficacy of a move through $55. Keep a close eye on Teva's price action this week.
It doesn't take an expert to figure out what's happening on the chart of $78 billion railroad operator Union Pacific (UNP) - Get Report . Instead, the price action in Union Pacific is about as simple as it gets. This big transportation company has been bouncing its way higher in an uptrend all year long, rallying 35% higher since the pattern started. And as shares move towards another touch of trend line support, it makes sense to buy the next bounce.
Union Pacific's uptrend is bounded by a pair of parallel trend lines that have identified the high-probability range for this stock to remain stuck within. So far, every time this stock has touched the bottom of its price range, it's presented traders with a low-risk, high-reward buying opportunity.
Actually waiting for that bounce is important for two key reasons: It's the spot where shares have the most room to move up before they hit resistance, and it's the spot where the risk is the least (because shares have the least room to move lower before the channel breaks, and you know you're wrong). Remember, all trend lines do eventually break, but by actually waiting for a bounce to happen first, you're ensuring that Union Pacific can still catch a bid along that line before you put your money on shares.
Public Service Enterprise Group
Last up on the list is $23 billion electric utility Public Service Enterprise Group(PEG) - Get Report . PEG has been another strong performer in 2016, rallying as surprise interest rate hike postponements from the Fed have boosted the relative appeal of income-producing stocks like utilities. And now PSEG is showing signs of another leg up.
PSEG has spent the last few months forming a textbook inverse head and shoulders pattern, a classic trading setup that indicates 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 PSEG's neckline at $14, a price level that's been tested without success since late March.
The price pattern in PSEG isn't textbook. Typically, an inverse head and shoulders pattern is a reversal pattern that comes at the bottom of a selloff, not the top of an uptrend. But even though the price action isn't typical, it's tradable. A breakout above $47 makes more upside in PSEG the high-probability trade.
Disclosure: This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.