Technically, you should sell Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) right now.

We examined the company using moving average convergence-divergence (MACD), which is one of the most popular and long-used technical analysis indicators. Technical analysis is the field of buying and selling stocks not based on the underlying merits of a company, but rather on the patterns and formulas around its price movements.

Signal-line crossover is one of the more common ways to interpret MACD. It uses a series of moving averages (in this case, nine, 12, and 26 days) to look for bullish and bearish crossovers that indicate a stock has momentum in one direction or another. Below you can find a current chart of Qualcomm's MACD profile:

Confused? Well, that's preposterous! How could you ever be confused by something as simple as a moving average convergence-divergence chart! OK, we're jesting -- but in all seriousness, this is actually one of the simpler methods for technical analysis.

Still, if you'd strictly followed the rules, seeking out upward and downward momentum, you would have seen the stock move between buy and sell categories a fantastic 18 times in one year!

A better way to size up companies
Here at Fool.com, we're more interested in other measures of company value. When we look at Qualcomm and its peers, here are the areas that interest us:

Company

Qualcomm

Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM)

Nokia (Nasdaq: NOK)

Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN)

Market Cap (billions)

$62.0

$18.4

$35.3

$30.4

Quarterly Revenue Growth (yoy)

(1.7%)

49.6%

0.9%

42.3%

Revenue (TTM, billions)

$10.7

$5.4

$54.5

$12.6

Operating Margin (TTM)

30.9%

8.4%

6.9%

29.8%

P/E (TTM)

20.3

30.7

27.8

12.3

PEG (5-year expected)

1.0

0.8

1.2

1.0

Source: Yahoo! Finance and CapitalIQ, a division of Standard and Poor's; TTM = trailing 12 months.

We prefer to look at the fundamental drivers of value. Investors should closely watch statistical fields like return on equity as well as qualitative values like competitive advantage and managerial effectiveness. These areas led investors like Warren Buffett and Seth Klarman to decades of outperformance. Buying and holding great companies is the best solution for individual investors to build lasting wealth and achieve their financial goals.

So when you look at Qualcomm, don't evaluate it for crossing a momentum line. Buy or sell it because:

  • Qualcomm is an undisputed leader in wireless technology. The company championed its CDMA standard, which is now used in every single 3G network across the world. The upshot for Qualcomm? It receives licensing and royalty payments from the companies producing cell phones that connect to advanced data networks. The typical licensing agreement Qualcomm signs ranges from 3% to 5%. When you consider that Gartner expects smartphone revenues to grow by a 28% annualized rate through 2014, the opportunity for Qualcomm is immense.
  • Qualcomm also boasts one of the strongest balance sheets around. The company has nearly $17.6 billion in cash and long-term investments versus just $1.3 billion in debt.
  • Qualcomm has two main areas of concern. The first is its chipset business. Recently, margins have been squeezed as competitors like Infineon and Broadcom have moved in to pressure Qualcomm on large contracts for communications chips. The second is Qualcomm's position in future wireless technologies. This concern appears to be fading because Qualcomm has struck licensing deals with major handset providers involving next-generation LTE technology, and the competing WiMAX technology (which Qualcomm has never favored) continues to struggle to find large telecom backers.

Want to sell Qualcomm based on technical merits today? Technically, odds are that you should flip and buy Qualcomm sometime very soon. If that sounds like madness to you, well, we here at Fool.com agree. In every market decline, technical analysis gets its share of proponents. The cries that "buy-and-hold is dead!" get louder, and individuals race toward schemes that promise greater wealth in a shorter amount of time.

I don't deny that technical analysis could make investors money. In any random short-term transaction, you're essentially playing a 50/50 game of chance. However, at the same time, most technical analysis schemes are a relatively simple science, eliminating the vast complexities of evaluating true company value. However attractive, this theory is ultimately the wrong path for individual investors. Technical analysis relies on long-held beliefs about exploiting momentum and consistent patterns throughout the market.

However, with as much as 75% of market trading now done by Ph.D.-level programmers at massive high-frequency funds, even if opportunities existed, what chance would an individual have to sniff these deals out? With so much volume now driven by these funds, how can you be certain the same rules of patterns still even exist?

I could also point to Massey University's study across 49 countries, which showed that more than 5,000 trading rules add no value. However, the real reason to forget about technical investing is what we mentioned earlier: Qualcomm crossed the crossover 18 times over the past year! While traders might not buy and sell with each crossing, cases of high momentum are normally short-lived. The amount of trading in most technical analysis schemes racks up commission fees and short-term capital gains taxes, eating away at profits. More importantly, it takes away from the idea of holding a portfolio of great companies that can accrue wealth over a long time horizon.

That's why, at Fool.com, we recommend that individual investors establish a portfolio of well-managed companies with strong advantages over their competitors. In the end, we find that to be the best contributor to long-term wealth. More importantly, it'll spare you from sitting bleary-eyed in front of a computer with a Big Gulp full of coffee, frantically buying in and out of companies. But hey, if your idea of protecting your future is charting the ups and downs of moving average convergence-divergence charts, then Qualcomm looks like a sell right now. Just don't expect to hold it for very long.

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Jeremy Phillips owns shares of no companies listed above. Nokia is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. The Fool owns shares of Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.