Car sales are back on the rise. After a correction in car sales, total annualized US automotive sales, as measured by industry analytics firm Ward Automotive Group, is back in the rise in the second quarter of 2016.
And that bodes well for a big collection of stocks this summer. It's hard to pinpoint precisely what's driving the uptick in auto sales right now -- everything from the Fed's potential rate hike to the look of the 2017 model year is having some level of impact on the numbers.
But however you slice it, higher car sales are a good thing for everyone involved, including manufacturers, dealers, parts suppliers and the like.
More important for investors, we're seeing that strength start to play out in the price action. Some of the biggest publicly traded automotive stocks are heading toward breakout territory this week. And that's where the rubber meets the road for your portfolio. Today, we're breaking down the best opportunities in the space with a closer technical look at five automotive charts to trade for gains this summer.
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.
Without further ado, let's take a look at five technical setups worth trading now.
Penske Automotive Group
Shares of mid cap car dealer Penske Automotive Group (PAG - Get Report) have been in rebound mode in recent months, rallying more than 24% on a total returns basis since shares bottomed back in February. Don't worry if you've missed out on that recent upside in shares of Penske, though. Shares look ready to kick off a second leg higher in June.
Penske is currently forming a textbook ascending triangle pattern, a bullish continuation setup that's formed by horizontal resistance up above shares, and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as Penske bounces in between that pair of technically important price levels, it's been getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout through our $40 price ceiling. When $40 line in the sand gets taken out, we've got our buy signal.
Relative strength, the indicator down at the bottom of the Penske chart, is the side indicator to keep an eye on alongside this setup. That's because our relative strength line, which measures Penske Automotive's performance versus the rest of the market, has continued making higher lows since February. That means this stock is continuing to outperform the rest of the market right now. Once $40 is in the rearview mirror, Penske becomes a high-probability buy.
We're seeing the exact same setup in shares of Japanese automaker Honda Motor (HMC - Get Report) . Like Penske, this car company bottomed in February and has been consolidating in an ascending triangle pattern in the intervening months. For Honda, the key resistance level to watch is up at $28.50.
What's so special about the $28.50 level? It all comes down to buyers and sellers. Price patterns, like this ascending triangle setup in Honda, 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 $28.50 resistance level is a price where there has been an excess of supply of shares; in other words, it's a spot where sellers have been more eager to step in and take gains than buyers have been to buy. That's what makes a breakout above $28.50 so significant -- the move means that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level. So, if $28.50 gets busted, it's time to join the buyers.
Meanwhile, things haven't been looking great in shares of automotive parts supplier Dana Holding (DAN - Get Report) . Instead, this stock has lost 43% of its market value in the past 12 months, underperforming its peers by a hefty margin. That's the bad news. The good news is that long-suffering shareholders could finally be in store for a break: Dana's chart is showing off a long-term bottoming setup here.
Dana Holding is currently forming a double bottom pattern, a bullish reversal pattern that looks just like it sounds. Dana's double bottom setup is formed by a pair of swing lows that bottom out at approximately the same price level -- the buy signal comes on a push above the peak that separates that pair of troughs. For Dana, that key level to watch is resistance up at $14.
Price momentum, measured by 14-day RSI up at the top of the chart, is the side-indicator to watch right now in shares of Dana. Our momentum gauge made a pair of higher lows corresponding with Dana's double bottom pattern -- that's a positive divergence that signals buying pressure has been quietly taking over in this stock. If Dana buyers can push shares above $14, it becomes a buy.
Things are looking pretty simple in automotive supplier Lear (LEA - Get Report) . Since January, this $8.5 billion supplier has been making its way higher in a well-defined uptrending channel. That makes Lear a "buy the dips stock" right now -- and shares are showing traders a potentially buyable dip this week.
Lear's uptrend is formed by a pair of parallel trend lines that have corralled 99% of this stock's price action for the majority of 2016. Put simply, every test of the bottom of the price channel has given investors a low-risk, high-reward opportunity to pull the trigger on a buy. And shares are coming down to test that same support level for the fifth time in June.
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 Lear can still catch a bid along that line before you put your money on shares.
Not all automotive setups are created equal right now. That's the case with $16 billion automotive supplier Magna International (MGA - Get Report) . While the other four stocks we've looked at so far today are showing buying opportunities, Magna is a sell. That's because, after a solid upside move in shares alongside the rest of the industry since February, Magna's rebound is beginning to show some cracks.
Magna is currently forming a head and shoulders top, a bearish reversal setup that signals exhaustion among buyers. The setup is formed by two swing highs that top out at approximately the same level (the shoulders), separated by a higher high (the head). The sell signal comes on a move through Magna's neckline, currently at the $38 level. Magna doesn't actually become outright bearish until that $38 line in the sand gets violated -- but when it does, look out below.
Momentum adds some extra evidence to a reversal in Magna's chart. 14-day RSI peaked with this stock's left shoulder in March, and it's been making lower highs ever since. Still, it's a good idea to be reactionary and wait for $38 to get violated before you sell -- price is the most important indicator on this (or any) chart. In the meantime, if you're looking to play the recent momentum in the automotive business, Magna is the one to avoid.