This column was originally published on RealMoney on Aug. 26 at 11:09 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.During a choppy, trendless market, finding stocks to buy can be tricky. This is simply because most stocks trade in sync with the market, so an erratic market makes for erratic stock prices. But a focus on relative strength can help skim winners out of the field. The concept of relative strength is pretty simple. Even though most stocks run with the market, some just run faster than others. During a weak market, I look for those stocks that are the strongest, the ones that are "less weak" relative to the rest. Doesn't this make sense? In an environment where everyone is eager to sell, look for the stocks with the least amount of selling pressure. When the widespread selling pressure wanes, the relatively strong stocks really take off while most stocks are still recovering. None of the indices are particularly peppy. They are all resting. But of all the major indices, the S&P 400 MidCap Index looks the strongest to me -- it was the "best of the mediocre." No, I didn't crunch a bunch of data to arrive at this conclusion. Rather, I reviewed all the indices on my watch list and picked the one that looks the strongest relative to the others (i.e., the best of the mediocre). I then decided to look for the "best of the best," i.e., the strongest stocks within the S&P 400 MidCap. That was simple. I just screened for those that are at 52-week highs. Nine stocks popped up: York International ( YRK) Sandisk ( SNDK) Amerus Group ( AMH) Borg Warner ( BWA) Harris ( HRS) Pioneer Natural Resources ( PXD) Alliant Energy ( LNT) Plexus ( PLXS) Storage Technology ( STK). Of those nine, I selected the four that look to present the best trading opportunities: Sandisk, Harris, Plexus and Pioneer Natural Resources. So let's look at the S&P 400, along with the stocks that are doing just fine in a difficult environment.
Pioneer Natural Resources
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