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While Wall Street obsesses over Tesla, one other auto stock is staging a quiet breakout

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Ford racing ahead of auto stocks this year

Tesla is taking off this month, posting its first weekly back-to-back gains of 2019, and reversing course after a sharp downturn earlier this year.

But, while Wall Street watches the Tesla comeback, Ford Motor is making a quieter breakout. The stock is up 36% this year, its best since 2010.

This is just the beginning for Ford, says Matt Maley, equity strategist at Miller Tabak.

"It's already setting up quite nicely. If you look at the stock, it broke above its trend line going back to the 2018 highs, broke nicely above that when they reported earnings this past spring," Maley said on CNBC's "Trading Nation " on Thursday. When "everything else dropped in May, it held that line — it bounced again."

Ford now faces a critical level that will make or break its next leg higher, says Maley.

"A break above $10.50, that's going to be the key. That's when we can really raise the green flag on the long-term basis for the stock. That would not only follow with its recent higher low with a nice higher high, but it would also take it above its longer-term trend line going all the way back to 2014."

The U.S. trade battle with China and Mexico has buffeted the auto industry, including Ford, a headwind Chantico Global CEO Gina Sanchez said could continue.

"Look at a lot of the volatility around Ford that has definitely been tariff related and I think that's certainly created suppressive effect to the price," Sanchez said during the same segment. "If you look at auto demand, not just global auto demand, but also domestic auto demand, the Ford story is still sort what mixed right now and that's really what determines trend."

Until there is more clarity on the trade front, Sanchez says it's best for auto investors to sit on the sidelines.

"It's hard to say how this is going to turn out," she said. "At the end of the day, what matters is demand, and that's mixed. I would say that this is too hard to call right now."

Ford posted a better-than-expected first quarter on the back of healthy demand for its pick-ups and SUVs. It next reports earnings on July 24. It share price was down nearly 1% Friday.