You don't want to own utility stocks right now -- or at least that's the common wisdom right now. The Fed has their collective finger on the rate hike button this summer, and that's necessarily bad news for anything that pays a hefty yield.
That makes utility stocks an obvious casualty.
But the thing about common wisdom is that it's often not quite so common. And it's occasionally very wrong. At the same time that not owning utility stocks seems like the obvious move this June, a big chunk of the utility sector is actually edging closer to breakout territory. Ignore that bullish price action at your own peril.
That's why we're turning to the charts today for a technical look at five big technical trades shaping up in the utility sector in June.
For the unfamiliar, 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, let's take a look at five technical setups worth trading now.
Leading off our list today is $30 billion utility stock Exelon (EXC) - Get Report . Exelon is been showing investors a standout year so far in 2016, up more than 22% since the calendar flipped to January. And the price action points to more of the same this summer. Here's why.
Exelon is currently forming an ascending triangle pattern, a bullish continuation setup that's formed by horizontal resistance up above shares (at $35.50 in this case), and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as shares of Exelon pinball between those two technically significant price levels, this stock has been getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout through that previously mentioned $35.50 resistance level. When that happens, we've got our buy signal.
Relative strength, the indicator down at the bottom of the Exelon chart, is the side indicator to keep an eye on alongside this setup. That's because our relative strength line, which measures Exelon's performance versus the rest of the market, has continued making higher lows, even as the rally in Exelon has slowed down. That means this stock is continuing to outperform the rest of the market right now. A breakout above $35.50 makes another rally likely to follow.
We're seeing the exact same setup right now in shares of West Coast power and gas utility PG&E(PCG) - Get Report . That's not totally surprising. Correlations between utility stocks are relatively high overall, which means that these two aren't the only utility stocks forming ascending triangle patterns right now. But they are two of the biggest, and that means other market participants will be paying attention when they start to move.
For PG&E the key breakout level to watch is resistance up at $60. What's so special about the $60 level? It all comes down to buyers and sellers. Price patterns, like this ascending triangle setup in PG&E, are a good quick way to identify what's going on in the price action, but they're not the actual reason that makes the stock tradable. Instead, the "why" comes down to basic supply and demand for PG&E's shares themselves.
The $60 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 $60 so significant -- the move means that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level. Put simply, if $60 gets busted, it's time to join the buyers.
This $22 billion utility stock has been forming a symmetrical triangle, a continuation pattern that's formed by a pair of converging trend lines. The buy signal comes on a push through that upper blue line on the chart, currently just below $75. Consolidation patterns such as the symmetrical triangle are common after big moves -- they give investors a chance to catch their breath and figure out their next step. And after the double-digit rally ConEd has managed to post year-to-date, it's not totally surprising that shares have been consolidating.
Meanwhile, the constricting action of ConEd's symmetrical triangle is setting shares up for a volatility squeeze. Since volatility is cyclical, periods of very low volatility are typically followed up by a swing to high volatility. And as shares move into the tighter range of this pattern, the exit is likely to be fast - keep a close eye on ConEd here. You won't want to miss the breakout if and when it happens.
Things are pretty straightforward in shares of PPL (PPL) - Get Report . That's because this utility stock has spent the better part of the last year in an uptrend, bouncing higher on every test of the bottom of its price channel. The uptrend in PPL is still intact this spring -- and that makes PPL a "buy-the-dips stock" as we head into June.
The most important price level to watch in PPL right now is the support level that's acted like a rising floor for shares since last September. The top of the channel hasn't been particularly relevant for PPL's uptrend, but that's not hugely surprising. Trend line resistance is generally a less important level for uptrends to begin with. PPL is bouncing off of support for the fifth time this week.
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 PPL can still catch a bid along that line before you put your money on shares.
Public Service Enterprise Group
While a big chunk of the utility sector looks attractive right now, that doesn't mean it's smart to start indiscriminately buying utilities here. Not all the stocks in the sector are created equal, and Public Service Enterprise Group(PEG) - Get Report is a good example of that. After a strong start to the year, Public Service Enterprise's rally is showing some cracks -- it actually makes sense to sell this stock in June.
Since March, Public Service Enterprise has been forming a rounding top, a bearish reversal pattern that looks just like it sounds. The rounding top signals a gradual shift in control of shares from buyers to sellers, and in PEG's case, it triggered a sell signal when shares violated their support level up at $45. From here, the next potential pause comes at the next-lowest support level at $42.
Price momentum, measured by 14-day RSI up at the top of the chart, is the side-indicator to watch right now in shares of PEG. Our momentum gauge rolled over back at the beginning of April, and it's been making lower highs ever since. That's a bearish divergence that signals selling pressure has been taking over in this stock.
Disclosure: This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.