BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- Being an impatient investor pays, apparently. After yesterday's Fed statement revealed that the central bank had shed its "patient" language on interest rate hikes, investors got excited. Put simply, it was a bombshell announcement that helped shove stocks into rally mode again.
The big indices all reversed course after the Fed statement release on Wednesday afternoon, swinging from nearly 1% declines on the day to similar-sized gains by the closing bell.
A big part of the buying frenzy had to do with the fact that even though the Fed intends to go forward with a rate hike in 2015, it won't happen at the pace that Janet Yellen and company had previously stated. And make no mistake, the second half of yesterday's trading session was absolutely a buying frenzy. Wednesday's 1% gain for the big stock indices is all the more significant because all three were battling to hold above breakeven at the start of this week.
To take full advantage of the newfound bullish sentiment for stocks, we're taking a technical look at five huge stocks that look ready to break out after the Fed's latest update.
First, a little on the technical toolbox we're using here. 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 big stocks to trade this week.
Up first is Swiss drug maker Novartis (NVS - Get Report). Novartis has had a pretty strong run so far in 2015, rallying 8% since the calendar flipped to January. For comparison, the S&P has only managed to achieve a quarter of that move, even after yesterday's pop. But that 8% upside could be just the start of it -- NVS is forming a textbook bullish price setup that looks ready for another leg higher in March.
Novartis is currently forming an ascending triangle, a bullish price pattern that's formed by horizontal resistance above shares (in this case at $100) and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as NVS bounces in between those two technically-important price levels, it's been squeezed closer and closer to a breakout above resistance. When the $100 breakout happens, we've got our buy signal. Shares of Novartis peeked above that $100 price ceiling in yesterday's session but only barely. We should see a meaningful test of that big round-number resistance line in today's session.
Relative strength is the side-indicator to watch in shares of Novartis right now. Our relative strength line has been un an uptrend of its own since the start of the new year, an indication that NVS isn't just moving up, it's also started outperforming the broad market. As long as that uptrend in relative strength remains intact, NVS should keep up that outperformance.
On the other hand, Spanish bank Banco Santander (SAN - Get Report) isn't outperforming much right now. In fact, in the last six months, this $98 billion banking play has shed 30% of its market value, dragged lower by ongoing issues in the Eurozone financial system. But things could be about to change for long-suffering shareholders. SAN is starting to show signs of a bottom here.
Santander is currently forming a double bottom pattern, a bullish reversal pattern that looks just like it sounds. The double bottom is formed by a pair of swing lows that find support at approximately the same price level. The buy signal comes on a breakout through the peak that separates though two troughs. For SAN, that's the $7.40 breakout level.
The possibility of a reversal in Santander is backed up right now by this stock's momentum gauge at the top of the chart. 14-day RSI made higher lows during SAN's double bottom pattern, a bullish divergence from price that indicates buying pressure is quietly building behind the scenes. Don't be early on this trade. It's not a high-probability setup until $7.40 gets taken out.
You don't need to be an expert technical trader to see why Google (GOOG - Get Report), (GOOGL) is looking bullish right now. The price action in the $385 billion search engine giant is about as simple as it gets. After a rough run in the second half of 2014, Google is bouncing back with a vengeance this year -- and it makes sense to buy the bounce.
Since the calendar flipped to 2015, Google has been bouncing its way higher in a well-defined uptrending channel. The channel in Google is formed by a pair of parallel trend lines that identify the high-probability range for shares to stay stuck within. Every test of trend line support since January has provided a low-risk, high reward buying opportunity, and as this stock tests that same level for a fifth time in March, it makes sense to buy yesterday's sign of strength.
Waiting for that bounce is important for two key 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 Google can actually still catch a bid along that line before you put your money on shares.
Novartis isn't the only big pharma firm on our list today. After a long sideway grind, Sanofi (SNY - Get Report) looks pointed higher here too. Sanofi has been a notable underperformer in the healthcare sector over the last six months, but that could be about to change. This big drug stock is showing off a textbook reversal pattern in the long-term.
Sanofi is currently forming an inverse head and shoulders pattern. You can spot the inverse head and shoulders by looking for two swing lows that bottom out around the same level (the shoulders), separated by a bigger trough called the head; the buy signal comes on the breakout above the pattern’s “neckline” level. That's the $51 level in SNY.
Momentum adds some confidence to a reversal in SNY. Our momentum line has been in an uptrend since Sanofi gapped down back in November, another bullish divergence from price. The long-term stretch of this setup comes with equally long-term breakout implications on a close above $51.
Not all of the setups on Wall Street are waving buy signals this week. The potential downside trade we're looking at today is Unilever (UN). Unilever has been forming a head and shoulders top in the intermediate-term -- that's the bearish opposite of the reversal pattern we just looked at in shares of Sanofi. The sell signal comes on a violation of UN's $41.50 level.
Why all of the significance at $41.50? It's not magic. Whenever you're looking at any technical price pattern, it's critical to keep buyers and sellers in mind. Patterns such as the head and shoulders top are a good way to quickly describe what's going on in a stock, but they're not the reason it's tradable. Instead, it all comes down to supply and demand for Unilever's shares.
That $41.50 level in UN is the spot where there's previously been an excess of demand for shares; in other words, it's a price where buyers have been more eager to step in and buy shares at a lower price than sellers were to sell. That's what makes a breakdown below support so significant -- it means that sellers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess demand at the at price level. So, not to put too fine a point on it, if $41.50 gets broken, then you don't want to own UN in the medium-term.