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This year’s worst performing sector is so bad, it’s good: Technician

Consumer staples are getting slammed this year, but one top technician says the charts look so bad, they might actually be good.

"[Consumer staples are] down 13 percent on the year right now, [and] at one point a peak-to-trough drawdown of 17 percent," Cornerstone Macro's Carter Worth said Friday on CNBC's "Options Action." "I'm going to try and play the other side, make a bet for a bounce."

In the following chart, Worth compares the group's performance to the related consumer discretionary sector.

Despite the latter trading with higher historical volatility, it's still managed to outperform the staples by nearly 36 percent since 2015.

The consumer discretionary group, which tends to perform best in stronger economic cycles, has been led by top-performing names Netflix, Chipotle and retail juggernaut Amazon — which makes up nearly 22 percent of the ETF's holdings.

"If we go back even more, 25 years of data, it's this blowout if you will," Worth said, "[But] this divergence of late I think is a bit extreme."

Worth's analysis also illustrates that of the consumer staple's nine major drawbacks since 2008, more than half have resulted in double-digit declines — the largest being the most recent plunge of nearly 17 percent from its January highs of $58.48.

Nonetheless, he believes the group's fall through a longer-term trend line could be signaling a catch-up opportunity.

"This 17 [percent drop] is to the point where I think you get a throwback to the underbelly of the [trend line]," he explained. This thesis would indicate a rally back to the $57 range for the consumer staples ETF (XLP), or more than 10 percent higher from its current levels.

On Friday, the consumer staples sector showed signs of resurgence, with the XLP rallying more than 1.5 percent as the best performing sector for the day. The group failed to maintain those gains on Monday, even as the broader market moved higher.

Worth counters, however, that the unusual speed of decline for the group is "overdone," and Friday's bounce off a downward trend should set the group up for a bigger rebound.

Worth also noted a rise in the U.S. dollar, warning that its recent strength has put pressure on the consumer-facing stocks that tend to have high international sale exposure. The dollar rallied to a four-month high on Monday, but Worth argues the greenback has gone too far too fast.

"I'm going to make a bet that we're going to turn down here and the dollar would be a tailwind for staples," he said.

Shares of the consumer staples ETF were trading fractionally lower Monday afternoon, around $49.50.

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  • Melissa Lee

    Melissa Lee is the host of CNBC's “Fast Money” and “Options Action.”

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