The numbers are in.

Nike Inc. (NKE) reported second-quarter earnings after the closing bell Thursday, posting profits that bested analysts' expectations. Nike earned 46 cents a share on revenue of $8.55 billion for the second quarter, coming in ahead of the 40 cents a share that Wall Street was hoping for, on average. Analysts had forecast revenue of $8.39 billion.

But big picture, Nike's results were mixed. Shares were down nearly 1% to $64.15 in after-hours trading.

While the firm has been managing to score growth in markets like China, the Middle East and Africa, growth in the largely saturated U.S. apparel market remains a challenge. That doesn't change the earnings and revenue wins that Nike scored in the big picture for the quarter, but it does color those results for investors.

The good news is that Nike's earning's win is coming in the context of a positive price trajectory for shares.

That hasn't been the case for much of the year. Nike may be up 27% since the calendar flipped to January, but essentially all of that upside has come just in the last two months. That's not a bad thing, however. Nike's recent return to positive price trajectory is a good reason for investors to keep paying attention to shares.

That's especially true now that Thursday's earnings results clear the way for the next move to the upside.

To figure out how to trade it from here, we're turning to the chart for a technical look at what's happening in Nike:

While Nike has been in an uptrend all year long, it hasn't been much of one. The well-defined uptrending channel that's constrained most of Nike's price action year-to-date was near-horizontal and wide-ranging, resulting in price action that materially underperformed the rest of the S&P for the first 11 months of the calendar year.

That all changed at the start of December, when Nike broke through the top of its price channel, clearing the way to new 52-week highs - and back within grabbing distance of lifetime highs just above $68.

The about-face in Nike's price trajectory this month is confirmed by relative strength, the indicator down at the bottom of Nike's chart. After dragging lower all year long, as Nike underperformed the broader market, relative strength finally broke out above its own trendline resistance level at the start of December, the exact same time that price did.

Near-term, $65 is the next barrier that Nike needs to cross to validate that buyers are still in control of the price action.

Shares are testing a breakout above that $65 level in after-hours trading following Q2 earnings results. If that carries over into Friday's trading session, investors might be looking at a brand new buy signal in this athletic apparel giant.

Wait for a higher open Friday to pull the trigger on the Nike trade. Shares could be about to make up for lost time after a slow start to 2017.

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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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