5 Breakout Trades to Take Ahead of the Fed

BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- The Federal Reserve is ruling the market's news cycle this week, between speculation over who will take Ben Bernanke's desk in Washington and the possibility that the Fed will announce its plans to taper.

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Larry Summers' withdrawal from the process on Sunday gives a seriously dovish bent to where the Fed is likely to end up. In other words, the fire hose of quantitative easy that investors have been drinking from for the last five years isn't likely to get shut off anytime soon, even if it does get turned down to a strong spray.

New frontrunner Janet Yellen has been less eager to pump the brakes -- and the market likes that.

Let's face it: We can expect to see a lot of doublespeak and ambiguity in the Fed's words this week. I suspect that the Fed is focused less on tapering QE than it is on tapering investors' expectations. Plausible deniability is going to be the biggest tool in their arsenal, just like it was back in June.

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Meanwhile, that doesn't mean that investors should be sitting on their hands -- we're seeing some attractive trading opportunities popping up in individual names right now. Here's a technical look at five stock trades to take this week.

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.

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So without further ado, let's take a look at five technical setups worth trading now.

U.S. Steel

Up first is U.S. Steel ( X). Hard commodities have largely been taken for a ride in 2013, and U.S. Steel has been no exception. Year-to-date, this $3 billion materials name has slipped more than 16%. But X could be in for a reversal of fortunes thanks to a bullish setup that's been shaping up in this name.

That's because U.S. Steel just broke out of an ascending triangle bottom, a bullish setup that's formed by horizontal resistance to the upside at $19.50 and uptrending support below shares. Basically, as X bounced in between those two technical levels, it was getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout above resistance. When that happened last week, it was a buy signal for traders.

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X has more or less been consolidating just above that $19.50 level for the last few sessions, giving traders a little more time to plan their entry this week. Momentum adds some extra evidence to continued upside in X; 14-day RSI has been in a long-term uptrend since shares started basing in late April.

Even so, I'd recommend keeping a protective stop in place at the 50-day moving average.


We're seeing the exact same setup in shares of small-cap HVAC firm Aaon ( AAON). The biggest difference is that in AAON's case, the ascending triangle pattern is coming in at the top of this stock's recent price action, not at the bottom. That makes this a more textbook trade for September.

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Another important difference is the fact that AAON hasn't triggered yet. Shares have been coiling below $26 resistance since the middle of the summer; a breakout above that $26 level is the indicator that it's time to buy. Whenever you're looking at any technical price pattern, it's critical to think in terms of buyers and sellers. Triangles and other price pattern names are a good quick way to explain what's going on in this stock, but they're not the reason it's tradable. Instead, it all comes down to supply and demand for shares.

That resistance line at $26 is a price where there's an excess of supply of shares; in other words, it's a place where sellers have been more eager to take recent gains and sell their shares than buyers have been to buy. That's what makes the move above it so significant -- a breakout indicates that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level.

Wait for that to happen before you put your money on this trade.

Home Depot

Home Depot ( HD) is enjoying some strong performance in 2013. Shares of the world's largest home improvement retailer have rallied more than 22% since the calendar flipped over to January, besting the broad market's impressive climb higher over the same period. More recently, HD has been tracking sideways, but that doesn't mean that the upside is over in this home improvement stock. Here's how to trade it.

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HD is currently forming a rectangle pattern, a setup that's formed by a horizontal resistance level above shares at $80 and horizontal support below shares at $72. The setup gets its name because those two lines effectively "box in" shares of Home Depot right now. That makes it an "if/then trade."

An if/then trade is a contingent trade that doesn't have directional bias -- in other words, the ultimate direction of the trade is determined by the direction that HD breaks out of its channel. So, if HD breaks above resistance at $80, then it's time to buy shares. If they slide below $72 support, then it's time to short. There's no trade until one of those conditions is met.

Southwest Airlines

The same kind of setup is pinning down shares of Southwest Airlines ( LUV) this week. In the bargain airline's case, resistance comes into play at $14.50, with support down at $12.50. Just like with Home Depot, the high probability trade is to bet in the same direction as the breakout from this rectangle.

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Southwest has rallied 37.7% in 2013, a fact that isn't hugely surprising. Consolidation patterns are common -- if not necessary -- after such a big price move; they give traders a chance to catch their breath and figure out their next moves in shares of LUV. Look for the breakout as an indicator that they've made up their minds. A breakout in momentum through the 70 level should be a leading indicator that price action is going to follow suit.

I'd suggest putting alerts on both


3M ( MMM) is another name that's seen some impressive upside action this year. But it's not showing any signs of letting up at this point. You don't have to be an expert technical analyst to figure out what's going on in shares of 3M -- shares of the $81 billion Post-It maker are in a textbook uptrending channel right now. That's about as basic as a technical pattern gets.

3M has had its price action bounded by trendline support to the downside, bouncing higher each of the last five times it's been tested. That uptrending channel provides a high-probability range for price action on the way up -- and while you want to be a buyer in an uptrend, the ideal time to buy comes on a bounce off of support.

Buying off a support bounce makes sense for two big reasons: It's the spot where shares have the furthest 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 you know you're wrong). That means that investors would do well to practice some patience from here.

To see this week's trades in action, check out the Technical Setups for the Week portfolio on Stockpickr.

-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.


Follow Stockpickr on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Jonas Elmerraji, CMT, is a senior market analyst at Agora Financial in Baltimore and a contributor to
TheStreet . Before that, he managed a portfolio of stocks for an investment advisory returned 15% in 2008. He has been featured in Forbes , Investor's Business Daily , and on CNBC.com. Jonas holds a degree in financial economics from UMBC and the Chartered Market Technician designation.

Follow Jonas on Twitter @JonasElmerraji

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