Airline weakness not necessarily a bad thing for the rally: Technician

Wild ride for airlines
Wild ride for airlines   

Airline stocks closed out a turbulent week of trading on a high note, but one top technician says the bumpy ride is likely to persist—and any bounces should be sold.

Recently, the NYSE ARCA Airline Index lost altitude before rebounding from lows hit on Tuesday. It's just the latest bout of volatility in a sector that has underperformed the market of late, and is down nearly 10 percent on the year.

However, according to Oppenheimer Head of Technical Analysis Ari Wald, airline weakness is not necessarily a bad sign for the broader market.

"We think the high conviction trade is to sell any bounce attempts in airlines," Wald said in an interview on CNBC's "Fast Money." "With airlines there has been some technical damage that will require not only downside, which we've had, but additional time…to stabilize," he added.

According to Wald, the longer-term trend in the airline index has broken down, after making a "big top" earlier this year. despite the pullback in the airlines, Wald said the sector's weakness is actually "not a reliable topping signal for the broader market."

"What we think is happening here is ongoing industry rotation, more of a concentrated weakness within transports," he told CNBC.

Delta 'broken', but Jetblue 'healthy'

Paradoxically, Wald said weakness in the broader transports index has actually led to outperformance for the S&P 500 Index in the past.

In a research report published earlier this month, Wald noted that "Since 1929, the S&P 500 has tended to post stronger performance following a period of underperformance by the DJ Transportation Average (DJTA) vs. a period of DJTA outperformance."

Regarding individual stocks within the airline space, Wald recommended that investors avoid Delta, which he said has "broken trend."

On a more bullish note, Wald pointed to JetBlue as a name to buy. "While the other airlines are topping, I think JetBlue's consolidation is a little bit more healthy in nature," he said. "The pullback is where you want to start to build a position."