Commodities are coming back alive in 2019.
Since the calendar flipped to January, the popular S&P GSCI Commodity Index has surged nearly 19% higher, the best year-to-date start for the index in more than two decades.
At the same time, commodity-related stocks are making good on their reputations as leveraged bets on the assets that they pull out of the ground. As commodity prices rise, commodity stocks' margins experience an operating leverage effect that investors are hungry for as analysts warn on the potential for profit margin compression elsewhere in the market.
Simply put, we could be in the early innings of a sustained move higher for commodity stocks.
To figure out how to trade it, we're turning to the chart for a technical look:
Freeport-McMoRan ended 2018 on a sour note, shedding about 45% of its market value by the time the calendar year came to a close. So, while shares are more than 35% higher year-to-date on a total returns basis, they're still 25% lower than they started last year. That context matters when you consider the staying power of the recent return to outperformance in Freeport.
The good news is that you don't need to be a trading expert to figure out what's going on in this big stock; instead, shares are showing off a price pattern that's about as straightforward as they get.
Since bottoming back in December, Freeport has been climbing higher in a very well-defined uptrending channel, catching a bid on every test of support along the way. Simply put, Freeport-McMoRan is a "buy the dips stock" right now.
Relative strength, the indicator down at the bottom of the Freeport chart, adds some confidence to the newfound trend. Relative strength measures this stock's performance versus the broader market, and the fact that this indicator has recently started making higher lows tells us that shares are beginning to systematically outperform the S&P.
Shares have a way to go before they get close to testing the high-water mark set last year; that's an important psychological factor that should help propel this stock higher in the near-term.
Risk management remains key in the Freeport-McMoRan trade. The 50-day moving average has started acting like a decent proxy for trendline support, which makes it a logical place to park a protective stop below. Simply put, if Freeport violates the 50-day, the uptrend is over and you don't want to own it anymore.
Until then, the trend remains up and to the right.
Earnings set for next Thursday are the next potential wildcard in Freeport-McMoRan's price action.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.