I've been hearing increasing chatter lately that if you're thinking about shorting stocks now, you're late to the game. In some cases, that's true but I'm still seeing plenty of compelling short setups that could offer more downside in coming weeks.
When I look for stocks to short, my first area of focus is late-stage bases -- growth stocks that have made huge price runs already. There are a lot of them are out there, including Priceline.com (PCLN), Ulta Beauty (ULTA), Mastercard (MA) and Lululemon Athletica (LULU) and Under Armour (UA), among others. All are reasonable short ideas, but the one that looks the most vulnerable to me is Priceline after a more than 1,200% move since October 2008. Overall weak action in the broad market and a dry-up in buying demand in the stock tell me an eventual trip for PCLN down to its last breakout area around $553 could be in the cards.
Shares gapped up on November 2 on strong earnings but the enthusiasm was short-lived as sellers came into the stock. After early strength, it finished near its session low in heavy volume. Sellers have been in the stock ever since and Priceline is starting to meet with resistance at its 40-week moving average looks like a ceiling for now. I'm not seeing unequivocal signs of institutional selling, but buying demand seems to be drying up.
It's been said in the past that fundamentals often look the best at or near a stock's top. From a fundamental perspective, earnings growth prospects still look pretty good at PCLN, but sales growth has been decelerating in recent quarter and continued weakness in Europe in 2013 could weigh on results going forward. Clearly the company is looking for new growth opportunities as evidenced by its recent acquisition of Kayak Software (KYAK).
A market rally could see Priceline rise to its 40-week moving average around $648, but I suspect this will ultimately be a significant resistance level for the stock. All great price runs eventually come to an end, and it could be happening now with Priceline.
When a new market uptrend begins in earnest, former leaders like Priceline will likely be left behind, replaced by a new crop of leaders still in the early stages of growth.
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