BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- Stocks are looking frothy as we head into the final stretch of March. That ratchets the chances of a meaningful correction a few notches higher this week.
Yesterday, stocks opened higher, only to fade over the course of the session for a 0.7% lower close in the S&P 500 -- and more than double that decline in the Nasdaq Composite. That's the second straight notable intraday drag lower and a big indication that sellers are gaining the advantage in their battle with buyers. The line in the sand comes in at 1,840 in the S&P; if it gets taken out, then it's time to expect a more substantial correction into April.
But don't forget: For a correction lower to be a correction, we've got to be in a bull market. The primary trend is still unquestionably pointing up -- and while most names are likely to get knocked lower when the broad market retraces, some names look better braced for impact than others. In fact, some big-name stocks look ready to start rallying again.
So today, we're taking a technical look at five names worth trading this week.
If you're new to technical analysis, here's the executive summary.
Technicals are a study of the market itself. Since the market is ultimately the only mechanism that determines a stock's price, technical analysis is a valuable tool even in the roughest of trading conditions. Technical charts are used every day by proprietary trading floors, Wall Street's biggest financial firms, and individual investors to get an edge on the market. And research shows that skilled technical traders can bank gains as much as 90% of the time.
Every week, I take an in-depth look at big names that are telling important technical stories. Here's this week's look at five high-volume stocks to trade this week.
First up is big bank Wells Fargo (WFC). Wells has more or less moved hand-in-hand with the broad market over the course of this year, and that makes it a good proxy for what's going on in the S&P 500. And no, you don't need to be an expert technical analyst to figure out what's going on in this stock -- the chart is about as simple as it gets.
Wells Fargo is currently bouncing higher in an uptrending channel, a price setup that's formed by a pair of parallel resistance and support lines. That channel identifies the high-probability range for shares of WFC to stay stuck within, and so, with shares sitting at the top of the channel as I write, a correction looks likely.
But less important than that is the fact that WFC's channel provides a high-probability buying opportunity on the other side of the correction when shares retrace back to support. While the buy signal in WFC requires some patience, it's been a consistent way to ring the register all year long. Wells Fargo is a "buy the dips stock," just like we're in a "buy-the-dips market" right now.
You don't need to have quite as much patience to trade another big banking stock, $52 billion Dutch financial firm ING Groep (ING). Like Wells Fargo, ING has been bouncing its way higher in an uptrending channel, but unlike Wells, ING is touching trendline support for an eighth time this week. From here, the high probability trade is to buy the bounce.
Waiting to buy 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). Remember, all trend lines do eventually break, but by actually waiting for the bounce to happen first, you're ensuring ING can actually still catch a bid along that line before you put money on the line.
If you decide to buy ING's next white bar trading session, it makes sense to keep a protective stop under this stock's most recent swing low at $13.50.
PetroChina (PTR) is another name that's looking like a timely buy, even if it's been the opposite of an uptrend for a while now. PetroChina has managed to slip and slide its way 18% lower over the course of the last 12 months, but it's the firm's price action since February that's really worth watching.
PTR has been forming a bullish ascending triangle pattern since February. The ascending triangle pattern is a setup that's formed by horizontal resistance above shares (at $107.50 in this case), and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as PTR bounced in between those two price levels, it's been getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout above that $107.50 price ceiling. That breakout is our buy signal in this stock -- and it happened yesterday.
Today, we're looking for confirmation that PetroChina can hold buying pressure above that $107.50 level. Momentum, measured by 14-day RSI, adds some extra confidence that it will, thanks to an uptrend. But ultimately, price is the critical factor to watch in PTR; if shares hold their breakout today, consider being a buyer.
Procter & Gamble
Consumer goods behemoth Procter & Gamble (PG) may not have much in common with PetroChina, but that's not stopping shares of the $215 billion business behind brands such as Duracell, Febreze and Oral-B from trading just like China's national oil company. Both stocks are forming ascending triangle bottoms right now, the key difference is that the breakout hasn't happened for PG yet.
Procter & Gamble currently has resistance at $80, a price that's been a ceiling for shares since January. A move through that $80 level is the signal that it's time to buy shares -- and that also makes PG one of the best positioned blue chips on the market right now.
That's not because of market magic. The rationale behind the $80 breakout level is a lot more logical than that. 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 $80 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. That's also why buying PG isn't a high probability trade until that $80 breakout happens.
Not all the names we're looking at today are quite so auspicious. After a double-digit rally since the start of February, shares of Berkshrie Hathaway (BRK.B) are starting to show signs of a top.
Berkshire is currently forming a double top, a bearish reversal pattern that sounds just like it looks. The double top is formed by a pair of swing highs that max out at approximately the same price level. The sell signal comes when the trough that separates the two highs gets violated. For Berkshire, that breakdown level is right at $122.50. If $122.50 gets violated, look out below.
The short-term setup in Berkshire's double-top comes with equally short-term downside implications when and if the breakdown happens. If there's a silver lining to this stock's bearish price action, that's it. That said, now's not the time to be building a position in this big-name conglomerate. Wait for buyers to show back up first.
To see this week's trades in action, check out the Must-See Charts portfolio on Stockpickr.
-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.