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One of the market's top semiconductor-based exchange-traded funds is signaling some obstacles ahead for the chipmakers' stocks, CNBC's Jim Cramer said Tuesday after consulting with one of his favorite chartists.
The chartist, Carolyn Boroden — the brain behind FibonacciQueen.com and one of Cramer's RealMoney.com colleagues — has a unique methodology. She uses Fibonacci ratios, a number series discovered by medieval mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci that repeats throughout nature, to spot patterns in the stock market.
Specifically, she measures past swings in a stock or an index, then runs them through a Fibonacci prism. When she does this with a chart's Y-axis, price, it shows her potential levels of support or resistance. When she uses the X-axis, time, it flags particular times when a stock is most likely to change course.
So, with investors fretting about weakness at longtime industry stalwart Nvidia, Cramer and Boroden found it worth circling back to the chipmaking group via the VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF, also known as the SMH.
And, based on Boroden's analysis, "the SMH needs to run a series of gauntlets if it's going to keep climbing here," Cramer said on "Mad Money." "First, the semis need to get through this week without experiencing a serious reversal. [...] Then, the SMH needs to rally $3 to $7 bucks to clear its two ceilings of resistance. If it can do that, then Boroden believes the semis will be able to keep climbing. [But] that's a mighty big if."
Here's how they reached that conclusion:
First, Cramer called attention to one of Boroden's recent successful predictions: when the SMH bottomed in late December around $80, it touched a floor of support "created by a cluster of Fibonacci price relationships" between $79 and $81, as well as a confluence of timing cycles that suggested the index was due for a bounce, he explained.
Now, Boroden sees potential for more upside. Her methodology suggested that the roughly $94 fund could vault to $123 and change or even $135, which would constitute a 31 to 44 percent move. But for that to happen, there are "major hurdles" the SMH needs to top before the semiconductor stocks can continue their rally, Cramer said.
The first two hurdles have to do with symmetry, the idea that stocks or indices tend to rally the same dollar amount during sustained moves. Boroden noted that the when the SMH last saw a sustained rally in May, it climbed $16.53. Now, it has already bounced more than $16 from its December lows, which could mean that the rally might soon peter out at the SMH's $97 ceiling of resistance.
But even if it trades above $97, the index has another ceiling of resistance at $101. Boroden said the SMH could hit that level if it retraces its rally from February of $20.67. But even with that, it won't be smooth sailing yet, she told Cramer.
"Perhaps the biggest hurdle has to do with the Fibonacci timing cycles," Cramer said. "In December, when we were getting crushed, a cluster of timing cycles was good news. But now that the SMH has been rallying, a bunch of these Fibonacci timing cycles could mean that this semiconductor index is about to pull back. And Boroden points out that we do have a bunch of these timing cycles com[ing] due ... between today and Friday."
All in all, Boroden sees the SMH approaching "some serious resistance this week" as the tidal wave of earnings reports continues to sweep across Wall Street, Cramer said.
"If the semis can make it to the end of this week without rolling over, she says that would be a good sign and the upside could be significant, but there's also a decent chance the group will get slammed and retest its December low," the "Mad Money" host concluded. "At least you know what the technical levels are to look for."