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The S&P 500’s Next Stumbling Block and The Fed’s Foul Play

|Includes: NRG Energy, Inc. (NRG), SJM, SPXC, SPY

There’s no question that 2010 is already proving to be a tough year for stocks. Until this week almost all broad-based stock indexes were down close to 5% on the year, and economic fundamentals don’t seem to be improving much either. That said, not all stocks are having as rough a time of it…

We’ve added two new positions to the Rhino Stock Report’s model portfolio in 2010 – both are currently up on the year with an average of 8.6% gains. But the S&P’s next stumbling block could keep us from adding a third position until March. Here’s why:

A colossal breakdown in the S&P 500 in mid-January caused the index to fall below the 50-day moving average, a key technical support level. And although the market has staged a serious comeback in the last couple of weeks, that 50-day moving average could prove to be too tough of a resistance level right now.

With emphasis on economic numbers – like interest rates and jobs – this week, the fundamentals are driving the market. Since our economic fundamentals have been anything but bullish this year, the chances of seeing a break above the thin blue line are diminished.

That’s not to say that the S&P won’t move above the 1109 level next week – only that it’s going to take more bullish power than we’ve currently got on tap. For us, that means that we’re not going to make any new moves until we see a bounce off the 50-day or a breakout above it. (To learn why that’s significant, watch Planning Your Entries and Exits With Technical Analysis)

The Fed Fouls the Markets

Stocks are trading lower today thanks to the Federal Reserve’s decision to increase a peripheral interest rate after yesterday’s market close. To be clear, the rate (which dictates how much interest banks must pay out in emergency loans) doesn’t have much of an effect on monetary policy – but the change still has investors shaken.

That’s because a rate increase of any sort was so unexpected. The Fed slashed interest rates following 2008’s financial meltdown in order to lower the cost of capital and add liquidity to the seized-up credit market. An increase suggests that economic fundamentals are improved enough to increase the cost of borrowing – something that investors don’t see right now.

Although it’s unlikely the Fed will hike more significant rates, expect investors to continue to be anxious until the next bout of economic numbers comes out and they forget about rates once again…

Our Big Earnings Week

Next week is a significant week for a few of the companies in our Rhino Stock Report model portfolio. Three companies – NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG), J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM), and SPX Corporation (NYSE:SPW) – will announce their quarterly numbers to the public. I’m optimistic about all three stocks, so don’t expect a significant change-up in our portfolio positions next week.

Disclosure: NRG, SJM, and SPW are holdings in the Rhino Stock Report's model portfolio.