Trading Nation

Most booze stocks are in the red heading into summer, but traders say one can play catch-up

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Sam Adams parent Boston Beer downgraded. Traders pick top booze plays

Alcohol stocks have had a bumpy ride this year despite spiking sales of drinks.

Shares of Budweiser parent Anheuser-Busch InBev, the hardest-hit of the group, are down nearly 42%, but most of its rivals haven't had a much easier time:

The stock of Sam Adams parent Boston Beer has emerged as an outlier, with a 43% gain for the year. The stock hit an all-time high Thursday after Credit Suisse downgraded it to neutral from outperform for its lofty valuation.

While Boston Beer's stock appears to be getting ahead of itself, one of the underperformers is poised to play catch-up, Matt Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak, told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Thursday.

AB InBev, up 16% since Tuesday, "has had a decent rally here," Maley said. "But if you look at its weekly RSI chart, if anything, it's still oversold — not as wildly oversold as it was a month ago, but it is still oversold."

RSI, or relative strength index, is a momentum indicator used to track buying and selling pressure in a stock. Chart analysts often interpret oversold RSI readings as signals that the underlying stock could be due for a bounce.

AB InBev was trading at $47.55 in Friday's premarket, up slightly.

"More importantly, looking at [AB InBev's] daily chart, it's getting up near that key $50 resistance level," Maley said.

"That's a level it bumped up against two other times, so, if it can finally break above that, ... this is a stock that's going to get a lot of upside momentum," he said.

But investors shouldn't get too eager before they get confirmation from the charts, Maley warned.

"You always have to wait for that actual break to take place," he said, referring to the $50 level. "Don't try to get in front of it."

Gina Sanchez, founder and CEO of Chantico Global, also had her sights set on AB InBev.

"If you look across the losers, they are very different stories," she said in the same "Trading Nation" interview.

Constellation Brands, for one, is "very cheap relative to [its] long-term averages and they've actually maintained their dividend," she said. "So, depending on what you're looking for, that could be an interesting play."

She said her pick was based on quality.

"Budweiser, interestingly, actually has the strongest operating margins, and it also has slashed its dividend in order to ensure that it survives this. So I think that the quality stock here probably is that ... rather than going for the cheapest of the cheap right now. I think you need to stay away from those," Sanchez said.

AB InBev, Boston Beer, Diageo and Brown Forman's stocks ended trading less than 1% higher on Thursday. Constellation Brands shares fell by about 2%. Molson Coors' stock fell 3.5%.

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