As stocks, bonds and commodities flail, technician says one area of the market looks safe

Not much is working on Wall Street this year.

After hitting records in September, the S&P 500 has lost all gains for the year to hold just under the flat line. Safe haven assets like gold and bonds have also tumbled in 2018.

Ari Wald, head of technical analysis at Oppenheimer, said one corner of the market still works in both good times and bad.

"One standout idea here is managed care within the equity land. It really strikes the balance as far as actually really getting away from the whole risk-on, risk-off market timing debate," Wald said Monday on CNBC's "Trading Nation."

The S&P 500's managed health-care sub-industry has surged so far this year. The group, which includes Anthem, Cigna and UnitedHealth, has rallied 19 percent since the beginning of 2018 and has held positive in the past three months even as the S&P 500 has tumbled nearly 8 percent.

"If you look at managed care relative to the S&P 500, it's coming off a new relative high so it has shown resiliency through this market correction that started in the fourth quarter," said Wald. "It was also outperforming when the market was rallying throughout 2017 so I think you don't run the risk of this becoming a source of funds if you do get that risk-on market movement here."

Managed health care rallied 42 percent in 2017, more than double the S&P 500's advance.

"One standout within that space: UnitedHealth. It is correcting over the last couple weeks but has done a much better job holding support levels than the overall market," said Wald. "$250 is the key level. The stock's Q1 breakout is there. The stock's October low is there and its 200-day moving average all converge right at $250. We're bullish above there."

UnitedHealth is a 6 percent drop from its $250 level. It has not traded at that price since July.

Erin Gibbs, portfolio manager at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said she favors high-dividend yield stocks to protect against volatility.

"If you look at indexes like the S&P dividend aristocrats including dividend yields, it's almost about flat for the year," Gibbs said Monday on "Trading Nation." "Even quarter to date, it's down less than half the rate of what the S&P 500 is."

Gibbs said she prefers stocks like Nielsen Holdings, an industrials company, Simon Property Group, a REITs pick, and American Electric Power, a utility. While Nielsen is lower for the year, Simon and American Electric are both higher.

"You don't necessarily have to just have a specific sector bet, but something that has very consistent, stable earnings growth, stable raising of those dividend yields, you get that dividend yield and you generally are very protected on the downside and you also just don't have that roller-coaster effect," added Gibbs.

Disclosure: S&P Global Market Intelligence has positions in Nielsen Holdings, Simon Property and American Electric Power.

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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.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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