After a tumultuous start to the year, the S&P 500 is finally holding itself squarely in positive territory. The big index is up 2.83% year-to-date on a total returns basis. But that's not the most important number in the S&P right now. Not by a long shot.
Instead, remember the number 144; that's how many S&P 500 components are up 10% or more so far in 2016. In total, it adds up to nearly a third of the broad market index. There are a couple of big takeaways here. The first is that a meaningful chunk of the market is "working" this spring. The second is that the stocks that are working are really working right now.
The good news is that pockets of outperformance in the stock market aren't showing any signs of letting up as we head into May, even if some of the leaders are changing. To find the stocks that look primed for breakout gains this spring, we're turning to the charts for a technical look at five large-cap stocks that are entering breakout territory this week.
In case you're unfamiliar with technical analysis, here's the executive summary: 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.
Without further ado, here's a rundown of five technical setups that are showing solid upside potential right now.
Kimco Realty (KIM - Get Report) is leading things off today. This $12 billion real estate investment trust has been muscling its way higher in recent months, up about 30% on a total returns basis since shares bottomed at the start of September. Don't worry if you've missed that move, though. Kimco looks ready to kick off a second leg higher from here.
Kimco Realty is currently forming an ascending triangle pattern, a bullish continuation setup that's formed by horizontal resistance up above shares at $29 and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as Kimco bounces in between those two price lines, shares have been getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout through their $29 price ceiling. When that breakout through $29 happens, we've got our buy signal.
Relative strength is telling an important story in Kimco right now as well. That relative strength line, which measures Kimco's performance versus the rest of the broad market, has been in an uptrend since the middle of the summer. As long as that uptrend remains intact, Kimco should keep on beating the rest of the market on a long-term timeframe. If $29 gets taken out this week, it's time to become a buyer in this REIT.
We're seeing a similar setup in shares of $53 billion Japanese industrial stock Honda Motor (HMC - Get Report) . Like Kimco, Honda is forming an ascending triangle pattern. Unlike Kimco, this price setup is showing up at the bottom of Honda's recent range -- and the breakout has already happened. Honda's push through $28 last week was the signal that it's time to buy. There's still time to pull the trigger on Honda this week.
Why all of that significance at the $28 level? It all comes down to buyers and sellers. Price patterns, such as this ascending triangle setup in Honda Motor, are a good quick way to identify what's going on in the price action, but they're not the actual reason that makes the stock tradable. Instead, the "why" comes down to basic supply and demand for Honda's shares themselves.
The $28 resistance level was a price where there had been an excess of supply of shares; in other words, it's a spot where sellers had previously been more eager to step in and take gains than buyers have been to buy. That's what made the breakout above $28 so significant -- the move means that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level. Honda has been consolidating sideways since breaking above $28, which is giving investors a good, low-risk buying opportunity before another up-move happens.
At a glance, the price action in shares of global financial firm Deutsche Bank (DB - Get Report) doesn't look all that far removed from the price action in Honda. The big difference is the lack of an uptrend at the bottom of Deutsche Bank's recent range -- but while the price pattern may be a little different for this stock, the trading implications are exactly the same. The buy signal in DB comes on a push through resistance up at $21.
Deutsche Bank 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 bottom out at approximately the same level -- and the pattern triggers a breakout buy signal when shares are able to catch a bid above the peak that separates that pair of bottoms. For Deutsche Bank, that breakout level to watch is resistance up at the previously mentioned $21 level.
Momentum is the indicator to look at in Deutsche Bank. 14-day RSI, up at the top of the price chart, made a pair of higher lows at the same time its price was bottoming at the same level in the double bottom pattern. That's a bullish divergence that tells us buying pressure has been quietly building behind the scenes. Once shares can catch a bid above $21, DB becomes a high-probability buy.
Utility stocks have sported some excellent performance in the past year, and $25 billion utility holding company PPL (PPL - Get Report) has been no exception. In the last 12 months, PPL has paid investors total returns of almost 20%, vs. basically breakeven performance in the S&P 500 index. The good news for buyers who've been late to the game is that PPL is still a "buy the dips stock" this spring -- and shares are dipping this week.
Since last fall, PPL has been bouncing its way higher within a well defined uptrending channel. That uptrend is formed by a pair of parallel trendlines that have identified the high-probability range for this stock to remain corralled within. Put simply, every test of the bottom of PPL's price channel so far has provided investors with a low-risk, high-reward buying opportunity. From here, the next meaningful bounce higher is a buy signal.
Waiting for that bounce is important for two key reasons: It's the spot where shares have the most room 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 the channel breaks, and you know you're wrong).
Remember, all trend lines do eventually break, but by actually waiting for a bounce to happen first, you're ensuring PPL can still catch a bid along that line before you put your money on shares.
Last up on our list is insurance giant MetLife (MET - Get Report) . Not to put too fine a point on it, MetLife has been a pretty poor performer lately, shedding about 20% of its market value since the middle of last summer. The good news for shareholders is that this stock is finally starting to look "bottomy." Shares are breaking out of a prolonged downtrend in April.
MetLife has spent most of 2016 forming an inverse head and shoulders pattern, a bullish reversal pattern that indicates exhaustion among sellers. You can spot this price pattern by looking for two swing lows that bottom out at approximately the same level (the shoulders), separated by a lower low (the head). The buy signal came on a move through MetLife's neckline at $45, a price level that finally got materially taken out late last week.
This week, shares are testing the top of their downtrend, marked by the light dashed red line on the chart above. Now looks like a good place to start building a starter position in MetLife, scaling into a full buy once shares can catch a bid above that downtrend line. If you decide to be a buyer here, the 50-day moving average looks like a logical place to park a stop loss.