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Walmart will see a larger breakout after ‘lost’ years, Oppenheimer analyst says

Walmart has been one of the strongest performers in the Dow over the past year, finishing 2017 with its best gains since the turn of the century.

But it's not done yet. Ari Wald, head of technical analysis at Oppenheimer, sees the case for its shares to go even higher.

"It has rallied sharply over the last year, but this is following 16 years of no progress," Wald told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Thursday.

Wald's bullish bet is based on the lost decade-and-a-half from 1999 through to 2016, when Walmart shares made moves to end up nowhere. During that period, Walmart shares went as high as $90.47 and as low as $39.53. But those moves did not stick — its shares ended 2016 at $69.12, just a penny lower than its settlement in 1999.

"We see a much larger breakout at play. We're buyers of the stock," Wald said.

Mark Tepper, president of Strategic Wealth Partners, is also bullish on the stock, particularly as Walmart shows signs of evolution. He grew more confident in the retailer after it announced it was changing its corporate name to Walmart from Wal-Mart Stores. That change will take effect on Feb. 1.

"It's actually signaling their shift from brick-and-mortar stores to a stronger e-commerce presence. We feel they're well-positioned to compete with Amazon," Tepper said on "Trading Nation."

Tepper and Wald are in good company. Goldman Sachs on Thursday upgraded its rating to buy and added the stock to its conviction buy list. The firm gave a 12-month price target of $117, up 14 percent from levels at the time of its rating change. After Thursday's 1.5 percent rally, the price target implies 12 percent upside.

Expected income growth and individual tax cuts should fuel spending in the mass market, which will benefit Walmart sales, Goldman said. Analysts raised their earnings estimates for fiscal 2018 and 2019 based on stronger sales estimates and more favorable currency trends.

Walmart has had a rock-solid start to the year, joining in on a rally among Dow components that propelled the blue-chip index above another milestone, 26,000, and to new record highs. Walmart's stock has risen 5.6 percent this year after climbing eight times in the past 12 trading sessions. It is the third-best performer in the consumer staples sector in 2018.

Walmart reports earnings alongside its retail peers at the tail-end of the reporting season. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect the world's largest retailer to post a 3 percent increase in sales for its January-ending fourth quarter, and 4.9 percent rise in earnings. Walmart will report on its fourth quarter on Feb. 20.

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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Sara Eisen

Sara Eisen joined CNBC in December 2013 as a correspondent, focusing on the global consumer. She is co-anchor of the 10AM ET hour of CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" (M-F, 9AM-11AM ET), broadcast from Post 9 at the New York Stock Exchange.

In March 2018, Eisen was named co-anchor of CNBC's "Power Lunch" (M-F, 1PM-3PM ET), which broadcasts from CNBC Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

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