A gain of 30.18% in 2019 for shares of Starbucks Corporation (SBUX) likely couldn't have happened without institutional support for the stock. The way the shares have traded tells a story of a stock gaining alongside a large amount of unusual trading activity. It's bullish activity because the shares are heading higher on increasing volume, indicating that a buyer is involved.

Over time, we've learned how stocks with a history or strong fundamentals tend to rise in price. Smart money managers are always looking to bet on the next outlier stocks … the best in class.

The main criteria we look for when betting on upside are a history of strong fundamentals, strong technicals, and big potential buying in the shares. I'll go into the fundamental picture later, but the true tell on the near-term trajectory of a stock lies in the trading activity of the shares.

Simply put, it's all about supply and demand. When demand is higher than supply, the stock rises. When demand is lower than supply, stocks fall. For most of 2019, Starbucks stock has been in an uptrend accompanied by unusual buy signals. It's all about stacking the odds in your favor.

For Mapsignals, when we look for an entry on a leading stock, we want to see an increase of potential buying. Just to show you graphically what our unusual trading activity signals look like, have a look at all of the unusual institutional (UI) signals Starbucks stock has made over the past year.

Beginning this year, there have been days when Starbucks shares appear to have had a buyer. This is notable because stocks move based on supply and demand. What is really catching our eye now is the recent UI buying. After the meltdown late last year, the stock has been in bull mode:

Chart showing the unusual institutional (UI) signals made by Starbucks Corporation (SBUX)

Since September, Starbucks stock has logged 17 unusually high-volume days, indicative of buying in the shares starting on Sept. 7, 2018 (see chart above). This points to Starbucks gaining in an unusual way, which suggests that demand for the stock is increasing.

If you are going to make a bet on the direction of a stock, it is prudent to pay attention to how the shares are trading. Just like you don't want to fight the trend, you also don't want to fight a stock that shows increasing price alongside an increase in the volume traded. Someone could potentially be accumulating a position.

Mapsignals' goal is to identify tomorrow's top stocks today. We're basically looking for outlier companies with healthy fundamentals accompanied by outsized unusual institutional trading activity. By studying these data points, we can make an educated guess as to which equities institutions are trafficking in and marry this information with fundamentally sound companies. We want the odds on our side when looking for the highest-quality stocks.

When we decide on a strong candidate, we consider prior leaders that have a history of technical outperformance. When they show leadership, we see these as opportunities. The following are a few areas in which Starbucks stock has grabbed our attention year to date (YTD):

  • YTD outperformance vs. market: +13.89% vs. SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY)
  • YTD outperformance vs. discretionary sector: +10.05% vs. Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLY)
  • Recent bullish unusual trading signals

Now, we take it a step further and score the best stocks showing unusual trading activity. Below you can see the historical times since 2017 when Starbucks made the top 20 report for Mapsignals. These are the highest-rated signals in our stock universe. Clearly, we caught the big run-up beginning in 2018. That's exactly what our process is designed to do. We'd even venture to call this stock an outlier:

Chart showing the top-rated buy signals made by Starbucks Corporation (SBUX)

On top of a technical picture that is strong, one should also look under the hood to see if the fundamental picture supports a long-term investment. Starbucks has been firing on all cylindars … just look at the following highlights from its recent earnings report:

  • Q2 2019 YoY revenue growth rate: +5%
  • Q2 2019 YoY GAAP earnings growth rate: +13%

Starbucks is breaking out recently alongside other discretionary stocks. We believe that the current level for the shares is in position for further upside. The narrative for Starbucks and other coffee names is one of strong growth. Serving great coffee with an inviting atmosphere has been a winning formula.

We are always on the lookout for great companies showing unusual trading activity in the shares. The best companies tend to trend higher over the long run. All of this points to a long-term opportunity for the stock.

The Bottom Line

Starbucks represents a potential buying opportunity for the long-term investor. Given the lift in price, growing fundamentals, and recent unusual buying signals, this stock could be worth a spot in a growth-oriented portfolio.

Disclosure: The author holds a long position in Starbucks stock at the time of publication.