Mediocre performance at Cisco Systems (CSCO) - Get Report in the last two quarters has raised fears that networking companies face a gauntlet of reduced demand and commoditized pricing, but that's just an illusion. Nearly every bullet point in CEO John Chambers' downbeat assessment has been company-specific and an unfortunate byproduct of the tech giant's monopoly mind-set.
It's now clear to most observers that convenient excuses have replaced quiet innovation at Cisco, given superior fortunes at its four primary competitors. Indeed,
have all surpassed Cisco with revolutionary products that are contributing to rapid growth.
Their price charts looks pretty darn good, too. In fact, each of these brilliant networkers ranks in the top 10% in relative performance compared with the broad equity market, not just their sector or technical niche. So if you're stuck with Cisco exposure that's dragging down your portfolio, you might consider cashing out of that money pit and picking up one of these industry leaders.
Juniper Networks held firm at a two-year low at the end of the bear market, bottoming out at $12.43 and entering a strong recovery wave. It returned to the 2007 high (blue line) at $37.95 in December of last year, when the rally stalled and gave way to a six-week sideways pattern. The stock finally broke out on Feb. 4, rising rapidly to a nine-year high at $44.62.
The stock sold off with the broad market last week, dropping down to short-term support, where it found healthy buying interest. The subsequent bounce reached the high on Monday and stalled out on Tuesday. This constructive consolidation needs one more downswing, in order to carve out a higher low that will support a renewed uptrend and rally into the upper $40s.
Riverbed Technologies is one of the industry's top players and a true wunderkind since coming public near $8 in 2006 and rising rapidly into a 2007 high (blue line) at $26.41. The stock dropped into single digits during the bear market, finally bottoming out at $3.55 in November 2008. The subsequent recovery completed a return trip to the multiyear high in October of last year.
The stock congested at resistance for less than three weeks and then broke out to an all-time high. Momentum players entered in force, triggering a rapid uptrend that has nearly doubled in price in the last four months. The most recent pullback looks minor compared with the powerful rally, and it's a reason for buyers to jump in and lift the stock into a fresh round of new highs.
Aruba Networks is the least-known networker in today's column, but it's also one of the strongest stocks in my database. The company came public near $14 in April 2007, hit a swing high (blue line) at $23.85 just three months later, and then sold off with the broad market. It bottomed at $1.85 in late 2008 and returned to the multiyear high in September of last year.
The stock then ground sideways under resistance for five months, finally breaking out to an all-time high on Feb. 18. It's been carving out a trading range near the rally high for the last seven sessions and holding well above the big breakout gap. Interested buyers can enter positions if that gap gets filled, or stand aside and jump in on a buying spike over the range high at $31.65.
Finisar got beaten up when the tech bubble burst in 2000, dropping from $493 to $3.36 in just two and a half years. It bounced into a 2006 recovery peak (blue line) at $43.92, and then drifted sideways to lower for nearly three years. The stock has been on fire since March 2009, rising 24-fold into a four-year high at $46.09, posted on Feb. 14.
The uptrend is now testing the 2006 high, which will push hard against higher prices. In fact, these big barriers typically require three to six months of buying power to overcome. I believe it's worth the wait, though, because the next major resistance won't come into play until the stock lifts into triple digits. For now, let's just sit back and wait for a pullback into the low $30s.
At the time of publication, Farley had no positions in stocks mentioned, although holdings can change at any time.
Alan Farley is a private trader and publisher of
Hard Right Edge
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, due out in April. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks.
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