They were so close.

Just last week, General Electric (GE) was a potential comeback play. Today shares are back in selloff-mode, shedding around 3% as of this writing following news that the firm will take a surprise $6.2 billion charge tied to its legacy insurance portfolio.

GE's finance unit will end up paying $15 billion over seven years to fill a gap in its North American Life & Health portfolio, according to a statement from the company Tuesday morning. Even though Wall Street was expecting a charge from the business, the actual write-off is significantly more than analysts were expecting.

So, after starting the year as one of the strongest performers in the Dow, GE is waving some major red flags again.

To figure out how to trade it, we're turning to the chart for a technical look:

GE's price action has been ugly for the last year. In the trailing 12 months, this big conglomerate has shed more than 41% of its market value, trailing the broad market by a massive degree during one of the strongest market runs in recent memory. Simply put, GE may be a good company, but it's still an awful stock.

GE's selling has been orderly. In other words, all of this stock's downside action has fallen within a well-defined parabolic downtrend; that arcing trendline resistance level has acted like a "do not cross line" for shares of GE stretching all the way back to 2016. GE gave some hope that the downward trend could be coming to an end earlier this year, when shares tested their parabolic downtrend for a seventh time since April, but the reversal wasn't able to hold.

Despite popping briefly above the $19 level, GE reversed course in a big way with Tuesday's news-induced selloff, returning to its trend range. Relative strength, the side-indicator down at the bottom of GE's chart adds some extra confirmation that bears remain in control here -- despite a brief turn to outperformance in early January, GE is continuing to make lower highs in its relative strength line, indicating that shares continue to systematically underperform the S&P 500.

From here, $17.50 is the key level to watch. That $17.50 price tag has acted like a floor for shares since November, and it's a support level that, if violated, opens the door to a lot more downside in shares of GE. If you're thinking about trading GE here (either long or short), it makes sense to wait and see how this stock resolves itself either above $19 or (suddenly more likely) below $17.50.

Caveat emptor.

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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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