The blue chips are breaking out this summer. As the S&P 500 hits new all-time highs in August, it probably shouldn't come as a huge surprise that many of the big individual stocks that make up the big index are hitting new highs of their own this summer.
But what might be a little more surprising is the fact that many of the big stocks in the S&P are only just beginning to enter breakout mode now, more than a month after the broad market woke back up in late June. Put simply, it's not too late to pull the trigger on these trades -- and some of the biggest moves in the S&P could still be ahead.
That doesn't mean that every stock in the big S&P 500 index is looking buyable here. To find that stocks that you'll want to own in August, we're turning to the charts for a technical look at five large-cap names that are coming up on breakout buy signals.
First, a quick note on the technical toolbox we're using here: Technical analysis is 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.
Up first on our list of potential big-cap breakouts is $163 billion chipmaker Intel (INTC - Get Report) . At a glance, it might look like Intel hasn't done much this year. After all, shares are only up 0.23% on a price basis since the start of 2016. But that stat totally misses the big trend that's been in play since Intel bottomed in February; in that stretch this tech giant has rallied more than 22%.
Don't worry if you've missed that recent rally in Intel. Shares look ready to kick off a second leg higher from here.
Intel is currently forming an ascending triangle pattern, a bullish continuation setup that's formed by horizontal resistance up above shares at $35, and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as Intel bounces in between those two technically significant price levels, shares have been getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout through that $35 price ceiling. When that happens, we've got our buy signal in this stock.
Relative strength, which measures Intel's performance versus the rest of the broad market, is the side indicator to watch here. Our relative strength line has been making a series of higher lows since May, and that uptrend is still intact now. That uptrend in relative strength indicates that shares are still beating the rest of the market right now. Once $35 gets taken out, it's time to jump into this tech trade.
We're seeing the exact same price setup in shares of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A - Get Report) , (BRK.B - Get Report) right now -- just in the longer-term. Since May, Berkshire has been forming an ascending triangle pattern of its own, in this case ratcheting higher for a test of resistance at $148 this week. Once Berkshire breaks out above that $148 price level, we've got our buy signal.
What's so special about the $148 level? It all comes down to buyers and sellers. Price patterns, such as this ascending triangle setup in Berkshire Hathaway, 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 Berkshire's shares themselves.
The $148 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 $148 so significant -- the move means that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level. Once Berkshire manages to definitively move above $148, we've got a new clear-cut buy signal in this stock.
Meanwhile, things haven't been so hot for shares of $52 billion carmaker Honda Motor (HMC - Get Report) . In the last 12 months, Honda has shed more than 17% of its market capitalization, making it a notable laggard for U.S. investors who decided to bet on this Japanese motor giant. That's the bad news. The good news is that long-suffering shareholders could finally be catching a break this summer as Honda's price momentum reverses course.
Honda has spent most of 2016 forming a double bottom pattern, a bullish reversal setup that looks just like it sounds. The double bottom is formed by a pair of swing lows that bottom out at approximately the same price level. The buy signal came just a couple of sessions ago when Honda was able to catch a bid above the $28.50 resistance level that separated those lows.
Price momentum adds some extra confidence to the reversal setup in Honda. That's because this stock's momentum gauge, 14-day RSI, has been making its own series of higher lows that indicate buying pressure has been building over the course of this price pattern. The long-term nature of Honda's price patterns comes with long-term upside potential now that the breakout has finally happened.
Since shares peaked in early July, Exxon has been in free fall, selling off almost 10% of its market value as oil prices rolled over. But zoom out on the chart, and Exxon's price action takes a whole different tenor. In fact, Exxon has been in a well-defined uptrend going all the way back to last fall. As shares test the bottom of that channel for the sixth time, it makes sense to buy the next bounce in this oil and gas supermajor.
Exxon's trend channel is formed by a pair of parallel trendlines that have contained most of this stock's price action all the way back to last August's lows. So far, every test of the bottom of Exxon Mobil's price channel has provided investors with a low-risk, high-reward opportunity to build a position in this stock. And shares are touching support again this week.
Actually waiting for this latest 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, invalidating the upside trade). Remember, all trend lines do eventually break, but by actually waiting for a bounce to happen first, you're ensuring Exxon can actually still catch a bid along that line before you put your money on shares.
Discover Financial Services
Last up on our list of large-cap stocks with breakout potential is $23 billion banking company Discover Financial Services (DFS - Get Report) . Discover has been an outperformer in 2016, climbing nearly 9% higher on a total returns basis since the calendar flipped to January. And the good news for Discover bulls is that this stock could have even further to go.
Since the start of this summer, Discover has been forming an inverse head and shoulders pattern, a classic trading setup that indicates exhaustion among sellers. The pattern is formed by two swing lows that bottom out at approximately the same level (the shoulders), separated by a lower low (the head). The buy signal comes on a move through Discover's neckline at $58, a price level that's getting tested today.
The price pattern in Discover isn't exactly "textbook." Typically, an inverse head and shoulders pattern is a reversal pattern that comes at the bottom of a selloff, not the top of an uptrend. But even though the price action isn't typical, it's tradable. A breakout above $58 means that buyers are back in control of this financial company -- and that it's time to join them.