Trading Nation

Facebook just entered a 'death cross,' which could signal a failed relief rally: Piper Jaffray

Trading Nation: Facebook’s big run
Trading Nation: Facebook’s big run

Facebook has ricocheted back to prescandal levels and is now within reach of record highs again. The charts tell a different story, says Craig Johnson, chief market technician at Piper Jaffray.

"I see a lot of technical damage that has been done in this stock," Craig Johnson, chief market technician at Piper Jaffray, told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Friday.

Facebook endured heavy sell-offs in the weeks after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in March. That controversy involved a data firm compiling third-party app data on the social network's users to target political advertisements.

Since the scandal broke on March 17, Facebook has risen 1 percent to above $187 a share. At its worst, the stock had tanked more than 19 percent and was on the cusp of a bear market.

While it has bounced back and then some, Johnson sees hidden damage on the charts.

"As I look at this name, I think you got to be a little bit more careful," he said. "You've also got the 50-day moving average closing back below the 200-day moving average which is technically considered a bit of a death cross."

A stock marks a death cross when the 50-day moving average crosses below the 200-day moving average. The technical move usually indicates the beginning of a bearish trend.

Using past data scandals as a guide, Johnson says Facebook's shares likely have more work to do to prove they have better days ahead of them.

"Look at the chart of Facebook compared to Equifax," said Johnson.

"Equifax you had a huge data scandal there. About 144 million users, you had this gigantic 30 percent sell-off, big relief rally, never got back to new highs," Johnson noted. "You look at Facebook, something very similar has happened here: big sell-off, not back to new highs but close. That's what you got to be watching."

Equifax plummeted last year amid a data breach that exposed more than 140 million users' information. The stock lost as much as 14 percent in one single trading day in September. Since hitting a multiyear low on Sept. 14, the stock has rebounded nearly 28 percent.

"I think it's going to be a show-me story," Johnson said of Facebook. "I'm not rushing back into this stock at this point in time from a chart perspective as I think there's going to be just a failed relief rally."

Facebook bull Michael Binger of Gradient Investments sees the stock heading higher.

"We own the stock, we have no intention of selling it, we're very comfortable holding it here," Binger said on Friday's "Trading Nation."

Binger says the company has soothed investor anxiety with better-than-expected earnings and user metrics, a comforting sign that the social network will survive the scandal. The last time the stock traded around $187, growth expectations were actually lower than current estimates, he says.

"The last time the stock was at these levels, numbers were actually lower so estimates have been revised up, the stock is cheaper, we think it's a strong company, the model is intact," said Binger.

As of Friday's close, Facebook shares trade 4 percent below all-time intraday highs set on Feb. 1.