If you don't own tech stocks, you're missing out on a massive rally right now.
2017 has been a strong year for the technology sector. Since the calendar flipped to January, the Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK) has climbed more than 9% higher, besting the S&P 500's run to new highs by half again. But there's a bigger rally in tech taking place if you look closer at the stocks within the Technology Select Sector Index.
That's because, of the 72 stocks that make up that popular tech index, about a third are up 15% or more already this year. Put simply, a material chunk of the tech sector is on track for a triple-digit rally if this pace continues for the rest of the calendar year.
That doesn't mean that you should just go blindly buying technology companies right now, though -- the tech sector's laggards are definitely names you don't want to own in March.
So, to figure out which specific tech trades look buyable, we're turning to the charts for a technical look at three huge tech stocks that are triggering buy signals this month -- and one you should sell before it plummets.
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 four technical setups worth trading now.
Topping our list of big-cap breakouts from the tech sector is one of the biggest of them all: Microsoft (MSFT) . Microsoft has been a strong performer in the last nine months or so, rallying more than 33% on a price basis since last summer. But don't worry if you've missed out on that upside move in MSFT; a classic technical setup is pointing towards a second leg higher in March.
Microsoft has spent the last couple of months forming an ascending triangle pattern, a bullish continuation pattern that indicates higher levels ahead. Microsoft's ascending triangle is formed by horizontal resistance up above shares at $65, with uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as this stock pinballs in between those two technically-significant price levels, shares have been getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout through that $65 price ceiling. When that happens, we've got a buy signal.
The 50-day moving average has been acting like a decent proxy for support since last fall. For that reason, once Microsoft breaks through the $65 level, it makes sense to park a protective stop on the other side of the 50-day.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.
We're seeing the exact same price setup in shares of $39 billion technology solutions provider Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. (HPE) . Like Microsoft, this tech giant is showing off a textbook ascending triangle setup. The only differences? HPE's price setup is longer-term, and it triggers a buy on a push through $25 resistance.
What makes $25 the key price level to watch here? It all boils down to buyers and sellers. Price patterns, like this ascending triangle setup, are a good quick way to identify what's going on in the price action, but they're not the ultimate reason shares look attractive here. Instead, the "why" is driven by basic supply and demand for HPE's shares themselves.
The $25 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 previously been more eager to step in and take gains than buyers have been to buy. That's what makes a breakout above $25 so significant - the move means that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level.
The good news is that you don't need to be an expert technical trader to figure out what's happening in shares of Texas Instruments (TXN) . The price action in this large-cap chipmaker is about as simple as it gets. Texas Instruments has been bouncing its way higher in a well-defined uptrending channel since last spring -- and it's still a "buy the dips stock" in 2017.
Texas Instruments' uptrend is formed by a pair of parallel trendlines that have corralled most of this stock's price action for the last year. Put simply, every test of trendline support so far has been met with a bounce higher. That makes those support bounces low-risk, high-reward buying opportunities as Texas Instruments continues to rally. Shares are bouncing off of support for the umpteenth time this month.
Actually 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, invalidating the upside trade). Remember, all trend lines do eventually break, but by actually waiting for the bounce to happen first, you're ensuring Texas Instruments can actually still catch a bid along that line before you put your money on shares.
Not every stock in the tech sector looks buyable right now. Case in point, Chinese technology giant Baidu (BIDU) . While Baidu is about 5.4% higher today than where it started the year, this stock's price action has been choppy in 2017, and shares are teetering on the edge of a classic breakdown pattern in March. For Baidu, the key price level to watch is support at $172.50.
The price setup playing on in shares of Baidu is a head and shoulders top, a bearish reversal pattern that indicates exhaustion among buyers. The pattern is identified by two swing highs that top out at approximately the same level (the shoulders), separated by a higher high (the head). The sell signal triggers when Baidu's neckline gets materially violated -- that happens at the aforementioned $172.50 price level.
Relative strength, measured by the indicator down at the bottom of Baidu's price chart, adds another red flag to this trade. Relative strength measures Baidu's price action versus the rest of the market, and the fact that it's been trending lower indicates that Baidu's bout of underperformance is continuing into March. Caveat emptor.