Apple (AAPL) hasn't been the biggest percentage gainer in the S&P 500 this year -- heck, it barely even makes the top 50.

That says a lot more about this market than it does about Apple itself.

But in terms of value creation, pretty much nothing else holds a candle to Apple's colossal rally in 2017.

Year-to-date, Apple has added $296 billion to its market value, cementing its place as the most valuable company on the planet thanks to a 52.2% total return.

Thing is, Apple's gains aren't just in the rearview mirror. As Wall Street stares down the final stretch of 2017 trading, Apple is staring down the next big buy signal in shares. To figure out how to take advantage of Apple's next leg higher, we're turning to the chart for a technical look.

At a glance, you don't need to be a technical trading whiz to figure out the prevailing trend in Apple's price action:

Simply put, Apple's uptrend is alive and well this December.

That uptrend has provided a series of clear-cut buying opportunities for investors -- every touch of trendline support at the bottom of Apple's price channel has provided a low-risk, high-reward opportunity to grab onto shares before the next leg higher.

Meanwhile, zooming in a bit, Apple has been consolidating sideways after the most recent successful trendline support test back in late October. That's setting up a rectangle pattern in the very near-term, with horizontal resistance up above shares at $175 and support to the downside at $167.

Now, Apple is closing in on that $175 price ceiling -- and shares are within grabbing distance of that price tag as I write.

Couple those long-term and near-term time frames, and Apple traders are looking at a situation where shares are converging with a long-term uptrend at the exact same time that they're teetering on the verge of a breakout through $175. Simply put, a breakout through $175 sends a strong buy signal to anyone who's thinking about building a position in Apple right now.

Relative strength, the side-indicator down at the bottom of Apple's chart, adds some extra confidence to the buy signal in this stock. Apple's relative strength gauge has been holding onto higher lows all year long, signaling that Apple isn't just moving higher this year, it's continuing to outperform the S&P 500, even now.

Anyone who thinks Apple's rally is getting a little long in the tooth should think again -- this stock is teetering on the edge of a fresh buy signal in December. A push through $175 means it's time to pull the trigger on this trade.

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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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