Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ukraine suffers humiliating defeat at Debaltseve

(22 February 2015)  Score one for Vladimir Putin. Again.  Ukraine suffered an embarrassing military setback in eastern Ukraine this week as pro-Russian rebels took control of the strategic town of Debaltseve.  The Ukrainian army was forced to flee the town on Wednesday after the superior weaponry of the rebels (courtesy of Russia) made the town impossible to defend.  The irony was that it all took place just a week after a much-heralded ceasefire that had been brokered by Germany and France.  To make matters worse, there is growing evidence that Russian troops are now actually fighting alongside the rebels.  

However unscrupulous he may be, Putin has again apparently out-foxed the West and its client state, Ukraine.  Given the failure at Debaltseve, more commentators are suggesting that the Ukraininan army may be on the verge of collapse unless the West finally decides to supply them with weapons.  The Ukrainian Prime Minister Petro Poroshenko has said that they are now preparing for total war with Russia.

This latest chapter in the Ukrainian conflict with Russia isn't too surprising given Putin's track record.   But it was all quite predictable with astrology.  As I noted in two posts in 2014, I suggested that military action would flare up again in early 2015 and that Ukraine would likely come out on the short end of the stick.  This prediction was based on the chart of the swearing-in of Poroshenko after he was elected PM as well as Putin's own horoscope.  In June 2014, here's what I wrote:

Looking ahead, one obvious time frame to watch will be early 2015.  In February, Saturn (9 Scorpio) will station in a close square aspect to the Ascendant (8 Leo) just as transiting Rahu will conjoin the natal Mars at 17 Virgo.  Although each of these aspects needn't bring problems in themselves, their simultaneity increases the probability of a major setback for Ukraine, including a significant situation involving military action (Rahu-Mars).

The defeat of Ukrainian army at Debaltseve may well turn out to be quite significant and could be a game changer.   It may signal the beginning of a new rebel offensive that takes even more territory in eastern Ukraine.  Alternatively, it may also compel the US to commit to military support of Ukraine, a move it has been desperately trying to avoid over the past year.  If the US gives weapons to Ukraine, it will ratchet up the geopolitical tension and heighten animosity with Russia.   It would essentially become a Cold War 2.0 where the US and Russia fight wars against each other through their client states.    So what does the future hold for Ukraine?

I think there is still a couple more weeks to go before the current atmosphere violence subsides for a while.  The problem is that Rahu (North Lunar Node) at 16 Virgo is still very close to natal Mars (17 Virgo).    Due to Rahu's slow velocity here, it won't fully move past Mars until April.  It could well peak during the first week of March as transiting Mars (17 Pisces) will oppose natal Mars (17 Virgo) with the nodes, Rahu and Ketu still just one degree away.   I can't say if the US will end up arming Ukraine, but that Mars-to-Mars transit on March 5-6 looks quite intense and will likely correlate with a losing or defensive situation that involves violence.   This time period could mark the most intense or significant part of the conflict. 

As Rahu moves away in subsequent weeks (by April), fighting may be less strategically important (although it may well continue in some form), but the chart still looks weakened by the ongoing placement of Saturn at the bottom of the chart at 10 Scorpio near the equal 4th house cusp.  Even if there is a more sustainable ceasefire in April, Ukraine still looks to be in a bad situation since Saturn will station retrograde there in mid-March and then slowly move back over the 4th cusp in the coming weeks.  Its next station occurs at 4 Scorpio in July which is still very close to a square with the Ascendant and hence close to the 4th cusp also.  It is very hard for the country to move forward into peace and prosperity with that kind of ongoing planetary burden.

At this time, I can't predict if Putin will completely take over Ukraine or merely be content to settle for this buffer zone in the east.  But the late summer period looks difficult again for Ukraine as Saturn and Rahu will align with the natal Moon and Ascendant.  September and October look extremely stressed from this alignment.  It looks like the Poroshenko government will likely suffer another major blow in the late summer or early fall.   I can easily see the loss of more territory with this pattern.  March and April of 2016 will see transiting Saturn station opposite the natal Sun.  This perhaps isn't quite bad enough to coincide with total defeat at the hands of Putin and the rebels, but it could be an indicator of the fall of the Poroshenko government.  So some tough times ahead for Ukraine.

Financial Markets Update

The other big news last week was the 11th hour agreement between Greece and the EU to extend a bailout to that beleaguered country for four more months.  Most observers assumed that despite the tough talk of the PM Tsipras and FM Varoufakis, some kind of compromise deal would be worked out before any of the Greek debt came due at the end of the month.  In a previous post, I also thought this would be the case as Varoufakis' horoscope showed mostly favourable planets in January and February.   Another factor was likely the approaching Jupiter-Uranus trine aspect (120 degrees).  This is usually a positive influence on collective sentiment that can boost financial markets and give a sense of hope.  Stocks generally rose last week with the news and this was largely expected given the ongoing Jupiter influence. 

As noted previously, the Jupiter-Uranus aspect is exact on March 3rd so we could be getting very close to a maximum level of optimism and preference for risk-taking as far as the markets go.   The question is what happens after this aspect begins to separate on the 4th?  The short answer is that optimism is going to be harder to come by as Jupiter loses its strength in the days and weeks that follow.  

This week we could see what effect, if any, some Saturn aspects may have on the markets.  There are no less than three quick aspects with Saturn involving the Sun, Venus and Mars in the first half of the week.  Saturn is usually a negative influence, but with Jupiter still operating at full steam in the background, declines could be muted at best.  The late week sees the Sun and Venus align with Neptune which suggests more optimism.   Saturday the 28th is Budget Day in India and markets there will be open in a special session so investors can adjust their portfolios as they see fit.  The planets also tilt bullish on the weekend so one would think the markets will welcome whatever FM Jaitley has on offer.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Oil prices surge: is this the beginning of a rebound?

(8 February 2015)  After its long and relentless decline through the second half of 2014, the price of crude oil showed signs of life last week as investors were buoyed by improving demand prospects in Europe.  Crude oil enjoyed a 10% gain last week as West Texas Intermediate crude rallied over the $50 level.   It had previously traded as low as $44.  So we can ask the question: can oil begin to recover now and gradually climb back to its more familiar levels of $80, $90 or even $100?  Most financial analysts do not expect a swift return to its previous heights and many even think that crude will decline further in the months to come as the shale oil shakeout will continue.

The horoscope of Crude Oil Futures offers some useful clues to this question.   As noted in previous posts, the beginning of the decline in crude occurred just as transiting Ketu (South Lunar Node) conjoined the natal Mars. This is a classic bearish combination that began the correction.  Transiting Saturn then soon made its own bearish contribution as it opposed Venus and then hit the 6th house cusp (29 Libra) in November.  I had thought that Jupiter's station at 28 Cancer in December might have provided a temporary lift but this never really materialized as the transit was offset by ongoing difficult progressed alignments.  

Last week's bounce may be partially the result of some better progressions as well as the approaching Jupiter-Uranus aspect that is exact on March 3rd.  This aspect will line up exactly on the natal Mercury in the Futures chart so there is some reason to expect more gains in the next few weeks.  Of course, there are some negative influences at work here, too, not the least of which is Ketu's conjunction to the Sun and Pluto's square to Mercury which is exact during much of February.   Ketu's conjunction will be conjunct in March.  Both of these latter alignments are more troublesome so they could dampen the enthusiasm for any rally that coincides with that Jupiter-Uranus aspect.  Nonetheless, that Jupiter influence may well prevail for a while as prices firm up.  Once Jupiter begins to separate from Uranus in early March and into April there may be less optimism.  A re-assessment of the key influences will be necessary at that time. 

Financial Markets Update

US stocks powered higher last week as fears receded over Greece.  The Dow climbed more than 3% closing at 17,824.  I thought there would be some upside early in the week on the Mercury-Venus-Neptune alignment but that the second half of the week looked more uncertain with some down days likely.  This was partially correct as Wednesday and Friday were lower as most of the week's gains occurred on Monday and Tuesday.  Indian stocks actually declined on profit taking after making fresh all-time highs the previous week. 

This week looks somewhat bearish biased as Mars changes signs and enters sidereal Pisces.  As a malefic planet, Mars tends to be associated with rising tension and anxiety and therefore markets tend to decline when it forms significant placements and alignments.  The sign change is one such placement that is a fairly reliable indicator of a down day or two.  The sign change takes place on Thursday.  This time around, the Sun will form an alignment with Mars so that could magnify its significance as well as modify its most likely day of manifestation.  Thursday is still focusing on, but Wednesday and Friday could also be suspect.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Greece attempts to renegotiate its EU debt deal

(3 February 2015)  Anxiety in financial markets seems to have eased a bit in recent days as the newly-minted Greek government endeavours to negotiate a new debt deal from the EU.  The anti-austerity Syriza government is trying to postpone their debt repayment in order to give a boost to the domestic economy.  Spearheading these efforts is the new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who has become something of a celebrity through his wit and casual style, as contrasted in this picture with the buttoned-down formality with his UK counterpart, George Osborne.  Varoufakis has reiterated his government's desire to remain in the Eurozone under any circumstances by citing the lyrics to the old 70s pop song Hotel California, "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

Varoufakis has the horoscope of someone who is both intellectually inclined and who seeks novel solutions.  While we don't know his birth time, he was born March 24, 1961 in Athens.  For convenience, we will use noon and use the Chandra Lagna chart as a stand-in for the proper rasi chart. Right away, we can see that key Moon-Mars conjunction in Gemini.  Gemini is a very cerebral sort of sign as it gives prominence to the exchange of information and communication.  The Moon-Mars conjunction is a classic signature for a quick-thinking and intelligent person. regardless of the sign it is placed in.  The Gemini placement likely makes him that much more witty and voluble. 

And of course the bottom line planet for intellect is Mercury.  Varoufakis' Mercury is placed in an air sign (Aquarius) in a tight conjunction with Ketu, the South Lunar Node. Mercury-Ketu conjunctions often confer a preference for originality and a special sense of perception that may fall outside the mainstream.  Ketu is all about erasing or challenging boundaries, which is why it is prominent in the charts of people who follow a spiritual path.  It seeks to transcend the everyday world in its search for meaning and union with the Absolute.  When it is paired with Mercury, the thinking process is liberated from the simple rules that govern rational thought so that the individual may become more creative and be more apt to think unconventionally.  The fact that both the Moon and Mars are placed in a sign that is ruled by Mercury (Gemini) means that this unusual and even iconoclastic quality may be manifested more widely as the Gemini energy has an outlet to spread through the rest of his chart (and his life).

His intellect may be more obsessive and penetrating due to the exact opposition aspect with Pluto.  Pluto's influence on Mercury is often one what is capable of great focus and may give the native a desire to delve deeply into matters of perception and logic.  Taken together, this trio of Mercury-Ketu-Pluto is quite a clear indication of a very intelligent and focused person who is able to makes sense of complex problems.  This is not to say that his particular solution to the Greek debt problem is more correct than anyone else in the EU. Rather, his career in economics can be seen as a reflection of this intense desire to solve problems according to some kind of rational paradigm.  Both left-wing and right-wing politics can be said to follow rational paradigms, even if their ethical assumptions differ fundamentally. 

Other placements in his Moon-as-Ascendant chart are also positive for a successful career.  Sun is in the 10th house from the Moon (status, high profile) and his near-stationary retrograde Venus is in the 11th house (gains, high income, wishes fulfilled). 

This current rise to fame is less clearly seen in the transit chart in Chandra Lagna but may be more evident through his tertiary progressed chart.  The close Sun-Jupiter conjunction is the perfect astro signature for the gains and rewards he is no doubt enjoying in his recent appointment as finance minister.  Progressed Jupiter moves very slowly -- just a bit more than one degree per year -- but the progressed Sun moves about one degree per month so it should be seen as an accurate timing device for Varoufakis' ascension onto the world scene. The fact that this conjunction isn't exact until April suggests that the odds favour some kind of solid debt deal in the days and weeks to come.  The man is definitely on a roll which should see him preside over a successful renegotiation of Greek sovereign debt. 

But difficulties may surface as progressed Mercury and Venus align with progressed Saturn in the coming months.  That alignment appears to be closest in June and July, although the Mars station in May also looks a bit troublesome.  Just what these alignments may indicate is hard to say.  More bad economic data out of Greece?  German impatience with Greek internal restructuring to limit public spending?  Whatever it is, it seems likely that Varoufakis' honeymoon period is likely to end by late spring or early summer. 

Financial Markets Update

Stocks slumped last week as the latest comments from the Federal Reserve suggested a more hawkish policy towards rate rises in the future. The Dow lost about 3% closing at 17,164.  Indian stocks fared rather better (as has been the case recently) with only a modest pullback as the Sensex remained above 29,000.  This bearish outcome was in keeping with expectations as I thought the various Mars aspects during the week would likely mean declines.  Even the late week Sun-Mercury conjunction seemed suspect as stocks fell sharply on Friday. 

Thus far this week stocks have risen predictably given Monday's Mercury-Venus-Neptune alignment.  I had noted the bullish tendencies of this alignment in my investor newsletter. We could see a little more upside in US markets today (Tuesday) on the Moon-Jupiter conjunction, but the rest of the week looks less positive.  The problem here is that Mercury is in a bearish aspect with Saturn for much of the rest of the week.  While it is quite unlikely we will see a decline through the rest of the week, one would think that this bounce won't last and that some downside will occur. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Anti-austerity Syriza romps to victory in Greece

(26 January 2015)  Yesterday's election in Greece of the anti-austerity Syriza Party opens a new and uncertain chapter in European politics.  The new PM Alexis Tsipras has vowed to renegotiate the EU bailout agreements and end the harsh austerity policies that has seen the GDP of his country fall by more than 30% over the past four years.  While both sides have avoided sounding publicly intransigent thus far, it is unclear how Tsipras will manage to walk the tightrope between increasing public spending and therefore incurring yet more debt and keeping his European paymasters happy who understandably want their loans paid back.

Financial markets are keenly watching developments in Greece as there is a greater risk to the Eurozone as a whole if Greece should decide to default on its loans or if it leaves the EU.  Neither of these extreme scenarios looks likely at this point, as the collective risk to all financial actors likely outweighs the potential upside to one side or the other.  And yet we shouldn't be surprised by anything that might happen here.  The Syriza victory is now been seen as a lightning rod to popular opposition to EU elites and status quo capitalism as a whole.  The popular movement against the EU could conceivably evolve into something much bigger than a simple election win of leftist party in the periphery in the Eurozone.

So what kind of government might Syriza be?  The horoscope for the swearing-in of Alexis Tsipras provides a window on this question.  Tsipras was sworn-in at 4.07 p.m. in Athens today as Uranus and Ketu (South Lunar Node) were high in the sky in the 10th house.  This is a pretty classic signature for a government that seeks change and wants to shakes things up.  Uranus is the planet of independence and innovation while Ketu erases boundaries and transcends the status quo.   The 10th house represents goals and ambitions and that is more or less what Syriza wants: to end the rule of capitalist elites in Brussels and Berlin.  

Gemini rises in the 1st house and suggests a government that emphasizes communication and frequent interaction with interested stake holders.  Gemini is ruled by Mercury (20 Capricorn), and it is placed in the 8th house with the Sun.  The 8th house rules research and innovation so this is another clue that the Syriza government will not shrink from its desire to promote a genuinely new agenda for Greece.  This is definitely not a chart of a government that wants to play by the rules and adhere to traditions! 

The extent to which Tsipras will be successful in achieving these aims gets a nice boost from Jupiter's 2nd house placement.  Jupiter in the 2nd house of economy and wealth generally speaks well of economic matters.  One wonders if it may also indicate a tendency towards inflation (and devaluation) since Jupiter seeks to expand whatever areas it is associated with (money).    Jupiter also aspects Mercury and Sun in the 8th house, so that is another sign that the incoming government will likely make some tangible progress in its innovative efforts to rewrite Greece's obligations in the EU.

On the downside, however, Mercury is closely aspected by Rahu (18 Virgo).  Like Ketu, Rahu is also an agent for change and undermining the status quo.  But Rahu's influence here on Mercury (and a retrograde Mercury at that) looks disruptive, to the point of perhaps indicating unreliability.   Jupiter's influence can combat this Rahu affliction to some extent, but I think there is a good chance that Syriza's desire to have its cake and eat it too could create a credibility problem over time.  Most skeptical observers likely already expect something like this to happen, but it is interesting to see how this possible tendency towards capriciousness and unpredictability can be seen in the chart.  Rahu in the 4th house is also closely afflicted by Mars which also suggests some inherent instability in the government. 

Even with these problems, I have to say that the chart is better than I thought it would be.  While their anti-austerity program is a rational response to sharply falling living standards, my sense was the the Syriza party had an unrealistic, utopian vision and thus the government wouldn't be able to get anything done and wouldn't last.  This may not be the case, however.  It may be somewhat unstable and changeable in its behaviour, but it may last longer than some of its skeptics think.

In terms of possible future developments, I would focus on the June to August 2015 period when Saturn stations direct at 4 Scorpio.  Saturn will square the natal Venus in this chart and quincunx the Moon simultaneously.  This should be a very stressful and unhappy situation for the government.  The Moon and Venus symbolize well-being and economic health so their double affliction by Saturn may mean a serious economic problem which again limits public spending.  This could be the time when the honeymoon is over for PM Tsipras and he discovers that the EU are not willing to indulge him indefinitely. 

A larger affliction seems to occur in the summer of 2016.  Transiting Ketu will conjoin Mars while Saturn squares up against that same Mars.  This looks more serious and could result is a major setback for the government, such as a possible exit from the Eurozone and/or debt default which could threaten the viability of the government itself.

Weekly Financial Markets Update

Stocks moved generally higher last week as the ECB's Mario Draghi finally launched his QE stimulus program.  The Dow rose by 1% on the news of more than a $1 Trillion of fresh money sloshing around Europe while India's markets cheered the news even more loudly as stocks rose 4%.  On the whole, this outcome was not surprising as I had generally expected a larger QE program which would be bullish for stocks.  The Euro fell as expected on the news and is now trading at 1.12.  Parity with the US Dollar now seems increasingly likely.

The planets this week tilt bearish as Mars aligns with Mercury, Rahu, Uranus and Pluto at various times in the week.  That's a lot of Mars energy for markets to contend with.  It usually means sudden or hasty decisions are more commonly undertaken when anxiety trumps optimism.   There is really a lot going on in the sky this week so we could see some major movements here.  The late week is no less interesting as the Sun conjoins Mercury while Venus squares Saturn.  Neither is especially positive. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Swiss abandon peg to falling Euro

(18 January 2015)  Investors got another bone to nervously chew on last week as the Swiss National Bank (SNB) abruptly removed the cap on the value of the Swiss Franc relative to the Euro which had been in place since 2011.  In recent months, this cap on the value of the Franc had come under increasing pressure as the Euro had lost 15% of its value.  With the ECB expected to launch its own QE program this week, the cap on the Swissie's value would increasingly distort the Swiss economy as speculators would take advantage of the undervalued Franc and bid up local stocks and real estate to bubble-like levels.  The SNB announcement of the decoupling sent shock waves through financial markets as the Franc shot up 20% in just one hour.  The Euro naturally continued its slide as it fell another 3% and ended the week at 1.15 against the US Dollar.

None of this current slide comes as a surprise as I have been forecasting a major decline in the Euro in my newsletter over the past couple of years.  In my posts on this website, I have also alluded to the probability of a sharp decline and possible re-organization of the Eurozone starting in 2014.   The horoscope of the Euro (Jan 1 1999 at midnight) reveals several layers of affliction for the 2014-2016 period which made this current situation quite predictable. 

The dasha periods are a starting point for grasping this affliction.  The Euro entered the Rahu major dasha period back in 2002.  Rahu is a changeable influence which can coincide with both big gains and huge losses.  Rahu's placement in the 11th house (gains) of the Euro chart is helpful as Rahu usually does well there.  However, it is weak in the last degree of Cancer and is not really in the center of the house where it is strongest.  In fact, you can even make a case that this Rahu might have some 12th house characteristics since it is just 6-7 degrees from the equal 12th house cusp.  Rahu in the 12th is a difficult placement and would tend to produce losses and greater disruption over the duration of its period. The Rahu period lasts until 2020. 

The minor dasha periods also reflect the trajectory and current weakness of the Euro.  Note how the Euro rose under Rahu-Jupiter from 2004 to 2007 and then fell sharply in the meltdown in 2008 during Rahu-Saturn.  Jupiter is a benefic planet and is well-placed in the chart in the 6th house while Saturn is badly placed in the 8th house in its sign of debilitation.  The rebound of the Euro more recently occurred under Rahu-Mercury.  The Euro crisis in 2012 occurred just before the Rahu-Ketu period, a classic combination of malefics that usually mark stressful and uncertain situations.  While we should note that the Euro actually rose during this period, it was not on very solid footing.

Since 2013, the Euro has been in the Rahu-Venus dasha period.  Since Venus is a good planet, one would think that it ought to do well from 2013 until 2016.  But a closer look at the situation of Venus in the chart reveals the problem: it is tightly squared by Saturn.  It's 5th house placement is a plus but the Saturn influence is bad news and I suspect the conjunction with Neptune also doesn't help matters either for the Venus minor dasha period.  The Euro did appreciate in value in 2013 and early 2014 but it has fallen on hard times in the past six months.  My general expectation is that it is unlikely to recover its previous levels (1.40) during this Venus minor period.  Venus is just too afflicted. 

Dashas aren't the whole story as transits and progressions also enter into the equation.  Currently, transiting Saturn (8 Scorpio) is in the 3rd house in Scorpio and is fairly close to the equal cusp at 5 Scorpio.  That's usually a negative influence. Saturn also casts its full strength 3rd house aspect (i.e. sextile/60 degrees) onto Venus, which is the minor dasha lord.  This is another clear minus for the current period.  Saturn is due to station at 10 Scorpio in March which may be far enough away from Venus and the 3rd house cusp to boost the Euro around that time.  However, Saturn will then turn retrograde and station direct at 4 Scorpio in early August.  This will be very close to an exact aspect with Venus and even closer to the cusp of the 3rd house.  That kind of transit setup seems likely to coincide with new problems in the Eurozone which could even mark a new crisis and a further decline in its value.

Weekly Financial Markets Update

Stocks were generally weaker in the US and Europe last week as worries over growth continued to erode confidence.  Despite a strong finish to the week on Friday, the Dow lost 1% and closed at 17,737.  The mood was more upbeat in India as a surprise rate cut from the RBI saw a late week surge.  The Sensex rose almost 3% finishing at 28,121.  I had been agnostic about last week given the wide range of apparently powerful influences in play.  I thought we might have got more midweek gains on the Mercury-Venus pattern but these only really appeared on Thursday in Asia and then on Friday in the US.  I thought the late week Mars-Saturn aspect would have created more downside but this clearly was not the case.

All eyes will be on the Mario Draghi and the ECB on Thursday as he is widely expected to announce a QE program of debt purchases in order to entice more capital into riskier asset classes which ought to (theoretically!) generate more economic growth.  The question for investors will be how big the program will be.  A Trillion Euros is one figure that is getting tossed around as satisfactory so anything less could spark a decline in stocks.  Anything that size or bigger would likely be more positive for the markets.  

The planets on Thursday are complicated.  Venus enters sidereal Aquarius that day so that is often connected with optimism and rising stocks.  However, the Sun comes under the exact aspect of Saturn that same day and this is usually more negative.  Saturn's influence tends to be cautious and conservative so it is also possible that Draghi will be reluctant to announce anything too radical.  So we have a mixture of influences here.  I think the Euro chart suggests further downside so that ought to translate into a large QE program which would be bullish for stocks.  It will be interesting to see how these diverse influences play out.  Western markets still look to be on shaky ground for a little while longer since Jupiter won't be making any major angles with other planets until February. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Islamist terror attack in France reignites debate on Western values

(11 January 2015)  France is reeling from its worst terrorist attack in decades after an assault on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday in Paris.  The murder of a dozen leading journalists of the magazine was perpetrated by three radical Islamists who had taken offense at the magazine's depictions of Mohammed.  The attack has once again highlighted the problem of Muslim immigration in France, who now comprise 10% of the population.  Muslims have typically not assimilated very easily into French society and the resulting disaffection has made them more susceptible to appeals from radical groups.  

The popular response to the killings has been overwhelming in France and around the world, as citizens stand up for freedom of the press and against fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. While this massive outpouring of support for Western values may be inspiring, there is uncertainty about what the future will hold.  As anti-immigration political parties gather strength throughout Europe, one wonders how France and other countries will be able to manage the often difficult balancing act between respect for its traditions and openness.and tolerance towards newcomers and their cultures. 

The current astrological influences provide a compelling backdrop to these events.  There are several candidates for the horoscope of France, but the one that may work best is the day the republic was proclaimed following the removal of King Louis XVI on 21 September 1792 at the height of the French Revolution.  Following Occam's razor, the best explanations are the simplest ones so we should be able to see some clear clues in the transit picture.  We can see the natal Mars-Moon conjunction in Scorpio closely influenced by both transiting Saturn (7 Scorpio) and transiting Mars (2 Aquarius).  Saturn (obstacles, loss, disturbance) is the much slower body here so its approximate conjunction provides a structural affliction to Mars (violence, conflict, aggressive action).  This was close enough to reflect a rising tension in the country over the past several weeks following its exact conjunction in mid-December.

As is often the case, the triggering planet was the faster-moving Mars which was just a few days before its exact square alignment with natal Mars.  Mars-to-Mars transits are notoriously negative transits and often coincide with violent events.  We can also see that transiting Rahu (20 Virgo) was in an exact conjunction with Venus (20 Virgo).  Rahu is often associated with foreigners and outsiders and here it may be symbolizing the Islamic terrorists who were affiliated with the Yemeni branch of Al-Qaeda. Venus here may be seen as representing the national happiness which the Islamic Rahu had shocked and damaged through this attack.

Underneath it all is the withering influence of Neptune (11 Aquarius) which is in a square aspect with the Moon (13 Scorpio).  Distant Neptune is often seen as the planet of dreams and vision, and when it is favourably disposed, it can be associated with great national programs and aspirations.  But when it is in hard aspect as it is here, Neptune's effects are usually negative and suggest confusion or deceit.  The Moon symbolizes the people and their mood so this Neptune-Moon pairing may reflect a national sense of confusion about the nature of French citizenship.  Given all this tension and conflict between cultures, what does it mean to be French?  Is France going to remain a secular Republic that encourages assimilation or is that mission now impossible given the inability and unwillingness of many Muslims to feel a sense of belonging in modern France? 

The Neptune-Moon aspect will continue to be quite close through much of 2015 so we can expect a lot more soul-searching on this question.  Worse still, Saturn will remain in fairly close proximity to the Moon for the rest of the year so that suggests an ongoing unease and frustration over this issue that could erode the national will.  I would be especially concerned over the late summer-early fall period when Saturn stations exactly on Mars (destruction and strife through conflict) while a nodal return places Rahu with the Sun-Rahu conjunction in the natal chart. The heavy Rahu influence could be a clue that France will become more deeply entangled in conflict involving foreigners, either abroad or at home.

Financial Markets Update

Stock markets suffered modest declines last week on growing fears over the renewed possibility of Greece leaving the Eurozone after new elections at the end of January.  The Dow lost 1% closing at 17,737 while the Indian Sensex finished at 27,458.  The week unfolded more or less as expected as the early week Mars and Saturn influences coincided closely with larger declines.  Also not surprising, was the midweek Mercury-Venus-Neptune alignment coinciding with a rebound after the latest soothing words from the Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. 

This week looks somewhat more promising as Mercury and Venus continue their journey and align with Uranus and Pluto during the first half of the week.  While some anxiety is possible in the early going, I would think some gains are likely midweek.  The late week looks much more difficult, however, as Mars tightens its square with Saturn.  Just where stocks might finish the week is harder to say.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A question for investors in 2015: Do you feel lucky?

(4 January 2015)  As Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry famously noted, it sometimes just comes down to luck.  The New Year is upon us now and investors are once again assessing the risk-reward ratio of this vastly inflated stock market. As the world economy continues to struggle, central banks have been desperately trying to stimulate growth by various clever means of money printing.  Even though the average person isn't doing much better, the stock market has responded favourably to all this borrowed government money as the bull market now enters its six year since its 2009 low. 

Can the stock market rise for yet another year despite unimpressive economic fundamentals and so-so job growth in the US and a deflationary stagnation taking shape in Europe and Japan?  Bullish investors may pause to consider whether their luck can hold and the central banks can keep this game going for another year.   While no one can know the future with certainty, an understanding of the effects of the changing alignments of the planets can provide useful hints for the year ahead.

Several weeks ago, I thought that the Jupiter retrograde on 8 December might mark a significant top in the markets.  Jupiter is traditionally seen as a planet of expansion and its reversal in direction was one reason to think that some of its optimistic energy might wane as it began its four-month retrograde cycle.  In addition, I noted how Jupiter stationed retrograde in an exact aspect with the natal Moon in the chart of the New York Stock Exchange.  As Jupiter moved away from this positive aspect with the Moon, I reasoned, there was less likely to be additional gains for stocks, at least in the short run.  This proved to be only temporarily correct, however, as US stocks rebounded to marginally higher highs through Christmas. 

Other stock markets in Europe and Asia did peak in early December and have struggled to regain those levels ever since.  The Tokyo market hit a 10-year high on the exact day of the Jupiter retrograde, while India's BSE hit an all-time high just four days before and has since declined.  The UK FTSE made an important interim high three days before Jupiter reversed direction and has been lower ever since, while the German DAX also topped out just three days before Jupiter stationed retrograde.  Jupiter turns retrograde once a year and moves backwards through the sky for about four months before resuming its normal forward motion.

To cut to the chase, I think the outlook for 2015 is negative for stocks.  Besides the effect of a weakened Jupiter over the next three months, there are a couple of other patterns that may correspond with declines on many stock markets around the world.  For the purposes of this brief post, I want to focus on the NYSE chart.  The chart may be considered a plausible proxy for global markets as a whole.  While Jupiter separates from its aspect with the Moon, it nonetheless remains in the 1st house in this chart and therefore may retain some protective effect on collective market sentiment.  Jupiter will remain in Cancer in the 1st house in this chart for the first half of the year, so that could help prevent some more serious crash-like scenarios. 

More worryingly, however, Saturn (7 Scorpio) has just moved past its opposition aspect with the Sun (6 Taurus).  I would have thought we might have already seen more downside as this aspect was at its closest but it remains a source of potential caution in January.  Saturn is a bearish influence and its aspects are often found in situations where pessimism predominates.

The additional problem with this transit of Saturn in Scorpio is that it is due to station retrograde at 10 Scorpio on 14 March  This will form a near-exact 120 degree angle with the natal Ketu (South Lunar Node) in the chart.  Since both Saturn and Ketu are considered natural malefics, their geometric connection is a red flag, as two negatives can make one big negative.  Due to the very slow motion of Saturn, the effects could be manifested a couple of weeks either side of the date of the station.  More ominously, Mars conjoins Uranus and tightly squares Pluto just three days before this Saturn station.

While Jupiter will again form a positive trine angle with the Moon in early July, we can see that there will be a nodal return at the same time.  Rahu and Ketu will conjoin their natal positions in late June.  Nodal returns are often problematic as the disruptive and unpredictable nature of the nodes come to light.  Although not always negative, they are more likely to correspond with periods of instability in the markets. 

The summer gets another astrological mark against it as Saturn is due to station direct at 4 Scorpio in early August.  This will place it smack dab at the midpoint of the Sun and Mercury in the NYSE chart.  This likely suggests the mid- to late-summer period will see the markets fall. 

Jupiter's trine aspect to Saturn and then Venus in the late summer and early fall could see a return to optimism, although I suspect it won't be very enduring.  Jupiter will be moving quite fast at that time so its optimism will not have much time to take root.

Saturn then aligns with Rahu in September just as both will be in a tight alignment with the natal Sun at 6 Taurus.  This early fall period could be another rough patch for stocks. 

Jupiter's conjunction with Mars (27 Leo) in November and December offers the possibility of a significant recovery in the market at the end of the year. 

Overall, however, I think the difficult aspects outweigh the positive ones, at least in this chart.  I think the likelihood is that US stocks will finish 2015 lower than their current levels.  This will likely hold true for many if not most stock markets around the world.  Just how much lower is harder to say, but I will offer some thoughts on this question in my subscriber newsletter throughout the year. 

Weekly Financial Update

As noted, stocks got off to an uncertain start in 2015 last week as the Dow lost 1% closing at 17,832.  By contrast, Indian stocks rallied as the Sensex finished at 27,887.  As I predicted in my newsletter, the early week entry of Venus into Capricorn correlated closely with gains. In general, the second half of the week was more negative as malefic Mars opposed Jupiter. 
This week looks quite choppy as the early week will see Mercury in aspect with bearish Saturn just as Mars enters Aquarius.  But the midweek looks more encouraging as Mercury and Venus align with Neptune.  The late week looks more difficult as Mars could be close enough to activate the Saturn-Neptune square.  There is a lot of negative energy contained in this trio but it is unclear just when it will manifest -- this week, next week, or the week after.