Self-driving cars are one of the hottest spaces in the technology sector in 2018 and, not surprisingly, that's translating into some equally hot price action in the companies behind the tech.
As I write, scores of technology and automobile companies are scrambling to develop advanced autonomous vehicle programs before their rivals have a chance to bring them to market. But today, we're not trying to figure out which autonomous driving program is the best. We're only interested in the price action.
So, to figure out which autonomous driving stocks look predisposed to outperform in the near-term, we're turning to the charts for a technical look at five companies with self-driving car programs that are showing bullish technical setups this May.
Leading things off is chipmaker Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) - Get NVIDIA Corporation Report . In a lot of ways, Nvidia is one of the most attractive large-cap stocks to play the autonomous driving trend. That's because Nvidia's hardware and software are used to power most of the major autonomous driving programs around the world right now.
From a technical standpoint, there's a lot to like about Nvidia. After spending the last year in rally-mode, this stock has spent most of this calendar year forming a bullish continuation pattern called an ascending triangle. The setup is formed by horizontal resistance up above shares at $250, with uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as Nvidia bounces in between those two technically important price levels, shares have been getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout through the $250 level.
Shares briefly moved above $250 earlier this month before re-entering their price pattern. That's a signal that a little more patience (and a bigger breakout threshold) is needed before calling it a buy.
That said, Nvidia's relative strength line, the indicator down at the bottom of the chart, continues to signal that this is a stock worth owning. The uptrend in relative strength is a signal that Nvidia is systematically outperforming the rest of the S&P 500 right now. Once shares push materially above $250, we've got a new signal that buyers are back in control of shares.
GM has been forming an ascending triangle pattern of its own this spring, in this case with a breakout level at $40. The big difference with this price setup is that GM's ascending triangle pattern is showing up at the bottom of its recent range, not the top. Even though that price setup isn't exactly textbook, it's tradable. GM becomes a buy with a material push through $40.
Back to the tech side of things, Waymo parent company Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report is showing off a bullish continuation setup of its own right now. Obviously, autonomous vehicles represent a truly tiny part of Alphabet's business -- but that doesn't change the fact that this price chart looks strong in May.
Alphabet is currently forming a symmetrical triangle pattern, a continuation setup that's formed by a pair of trendlines converging at approximately the same rate. As Alphabet has worked its way through this setup, shares have been getting squeezed in a tighter range; that sort of volatility squeeze generally comes with a sharp price move outside the pattern.
Symmetrical triangles tend to resolve the way they started. And so, with an uptrend heading into this pattern's formation this spring, an upside breakout is the likely outcome for Alphabet. A push through $1,100 is the buy signal to watch for next.
It doesn't get much simpler than the price action we're seeing right now in shares of Intel Corp. (INTC) - Get Intel Corporation (INTC) Report . Since last fall, Intel has been bouncing its way higher in a well-defined uptrending channel, catching a bid on every test of trendline support along the way.
Simply put, it's a "buy the dips stock" this spring.
The 50-day moving average has acted like a stellar proxy for trendline support stretching back to mid-February. That makes it a logical place to park a protective stop below if you're trying to take advantage of this intermediate-term trend in Intel here.
Ford Motor Co.
Last on our list of bullish autonomous driving trades is carmaker Ford Motor Co. (F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report . After a rough start to 2018, buyers are finally back in the driver's seat for shares of Ford. This stock bottomed back in March, and shares have been bouncing their way higher in a very well-defined uptrend of their own ever since.
Like with Intel, it makes sense to buy the dips in Ford from here.
Also like Intel, the 50-day moving average has just started acting like a solid proxy for support in Ford. Simply put, if shares of Ford violate their 50-day, then the momentum has fizzled out and you don't want to own this stock anymore.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.