The major indices shook off Friday's selloff on the first day of February, lifting the S&P 500 to a two-year high, but lingering technical damage will make it hard for many stocks and sectors to break out of trading ranges that settled into place in mid-January. That's why I recommend limiting your purchases to groups that held up better than the broad market did when heavy selling pressure hit the tape.
Indeed, a resilient minority traded strongly through the weakness, thanks to fortuitous timing, a special story or perfect placement in the market arena. This is important information, because stocks that hold up well in adverse markets usually lead to the upside when sellers finally ease up. In fact, these issues often crowd new-highs lists for many weeks after a major shakeout, like Friday's nose dive.
Big-cap oil stocks sit on top of this maverick list, well-positioned to benefit from any disruption of crude oil supplies. The
Oil Services HOLDRs Trust
just ran in place during Friday's pummeling and then jumped to a two-year high on Monday. I expect this group to continue to lead the market, even if crude oil reverses and drops back into the upper $80s.
While many sector issues look overextended after strong rallies,
is in great spot to reward late entries into the oil-services group. The stock topped out at$ 23.75 in the middle of 2009 and spent the first half of 2010 ticking lower in a lazy decline. It finally bottomed out at $12.34 in June and entered a steady recovery that returned to the recovery high on Jan. 14.
Price pulled back sharply from that level and found support at the 50-day moving average late last month. It bounced back sharply and just rallied above the January high and 2009 high. This breakout should yield a momentum rally that lifts the issue into the upper $30s, where resistance from the September 2008 swing at $39.87 will come into play.
Semiconductors took a minor hit during Friday's selloff, and
confessional about its fabrication on Monday didn't help the group find interested buyers. However, the sector recovered fully on Tuesday and is setting up a breakout that should yield a wave of new rally highs in both widely held chip stocks and small-cap growth issues.
is a sector leader that rallied out of an eight-year basing pattern in early 2010 and entered a strong uptrend. The upside accelerated in August, with the stock doubling in price into the Jan. 18 high at $33. It pulled back from that level in a steep decline, dropping nearly 5 points in two sessions and coming to rest just above the 50-day moving average.
The stock shot back to the high last week, where sellers returned and knocked price down to the 20-day moving average during Friday's selloff. It bounced off that support level on Tuesday and is now testing January resistance. Interested parties can buy the breakout over the rally high and look for a steady uptrend into the low $40s.
I'm not a big fan of the cloud computing companies right now, but other Internet software providers look very good, after holding on to a firm bid in last week's downdraft. Apparently, not even the most predatory short-side hedge funds expect the Middle East crisis to affect page views on Facebook, Twitter or a thousand other web portals.
The Chinese Web giant
broke out above 2007 resistance at $59 in November and hit an all-time high, ahead of a strong uptrend that reached $90 on Jan. 18. The stock sold off from that lofty level, finding support in the mid-$70s a few days later. It ground out a five-day basing pattern and charged higher on Monday, heading toward two-week resistance.
The bounce stalled on Tuesday at a curling top Bollinger Band, raising the odds for a pullback or tight consolidation pattern, before the stock finally takes off and heads into a test of round-number resistance at $100. The rising-highs trendline (green line) in place since November tells us that would be a good place to take profits, ahead of another downswing.
Agricultural chemicals have been dancing to the beat of a different drummer for several years now, so it's no surprise that industry leaders
shook off last week's events and resumed their upward trajectories this week. Potash's announcement of a stock split on Thursday didn't hurt, because it was perfectly timed to insulate the group from selling pressure.
Lower on the capitalization list,
is pounding out its own bull market, after bottoming at a 15-month low last June. The uptrend lifted above resistance at $110 in October, with the stock now trading near a two year high. The September 2008 swing high came into play two weeks ago, dropping price more than 22 points in five sessions and landing it on top of the 50-day moving average.
The stock rallied over the 20-day moving average on Tuesday, setting the stage for a buying spike into the January high. By itself, this recovery swing could offer a profitable trade, but I recommend keeping a piece on the table for the next breakout leg, which could lift price up to the all-time high at $173, posted in June 2008.
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
, a comprehensive resource for trader education, technical analysis, and short-term trading techniques. He is also the author of
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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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