Monday, April 25, 2016

Hillary Clinton widens lead over Bernie Sanders

(25 April 2016) With another win likely win in tomorrow's Pennsylvania Democratic Primary, Hillary Clinton looks poised to win the nomination in the race for the White House. Although socialist challenger Bernie Sanders has staged a surprisingly impressive campaign thus far, most polls show Clinton winning Pennsylvania easily.  Last week, Hillary cruised to a comfortable win in her home state of New York and essentially put the race out of reach. 

Interestingly, national polls still show Sanders in a virtual tie with Ms. Clinton.  But national polls don't count for much as it's all about the delegate count at this point, as her lead in pledged delegates is now over 250 and likely to grow as several pro-Hillary states such as Pennsylvania and Connecticut hold their primaries tomorrow.  It's an uphill battle for Sanders supporters who are now wondering if all the grassroots enthusiasm for Bernie may not be enough to translate into more actual delegate support before the end of the primaries in June and before the convention in late July.

My reading of the charts indicates that Hillary Clinton is destined to win both the nomination and the presidency.  The picture is not as clearcut as I would like to see, but on balance, I think Hillary will be the next tenant in the White House.  But how she gets there may include some unexpected twists and turns.  Given the astonishing rise of Donald Trump on the Republican side, nothing should surprise us about the current election cycle.   The American electorate is angry and is sending a message to Washington and the political elites that the status quo is no longer acceptable.

Back in early February, I predicted that Hillary Clinton might suffer some electoral defeats in February and early March but would eventually take a commanding lead by mid-April. This has more or less been the case as Bernie won some early primaries that made the race very competitive before Super Tuesday on March 1st.  Bernie's political betting odds to win the nomination peaked in mid-February around 25% on   While Bernie has won some some additional primaries in April, they were all in small states and have not changed the expectation that Ms. Clinton will win the nomination.   Hillary is now seen as having a 95% chance of winning the nomination.

While Hillary looks likely to win tomorrow in Pennsylvania and Maryland, her horoscope does suggest some problems to her campaign quite soon, perhaps over the next couple of weeks.  There are a few different indications for trouble but I suspect the Mercury retrograde station on Thursday, April 28th could be the focal point.  Mercury stations retrograde at 29 Aries which is just one degree from her natal Rahu (North Lunar Node).  This can represent unexpected developments that derail plans.  The fact that Hillary's Rahu is in a tight square with Saturn only makes this Mercury station that much more potent.  It is not what I would call a high probability negative planetary pattern but it definitely contains some likelihood that Hillary will have to do some quick thinking and adapt to changing circumstances.

I'm not sure what this Mercury-Rahu conjunction might represent.  It may simply be poorer than expected primary performances, starting with Pennsylvania and Maryland tomorrow or in early May in Indiana.  Or on a more general level, it could be some negative development about her past, such as the ongoing FBI email investigation, her controversial Goldman Sachs speeches or even something like a betrayal of a former ally.  She could see her forward momentum disrupted somewhat in the days ahead, even if it may not do much to fundamentally change the direction of the race.  This could give the Sanders' camp some hope although she may not lose too much of her lead in the political betting markets.  (N.B.  Betting markets are usually more telling than polls)   But she will likely win California on June 7th (even if narrowly) and therefore will have the most delegates on the final day of the convention on July 28th.

Hillary Clinton's birth time remains a matter of some conjecture.  Most astrologers (including me) favour 8.00 a.m. although 8 p.m. is used by some.  Other times are also in circulation. For this reason, her chart is somewhat uncertain.  That's why I like to confirm possible future trends against the chart of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.  If she is doing well, then Bill's chart should surely also be looking fairly positive.  Bill Clinton's birth time is well established at 8.51 a.m.

We can see that some of that possible turbulence in the coming days in his chart also as Rahu (26 Leo) aspects his natal Moon (27 Aries) just as Mercury stations just two degrees away at 29 Aries on Thursday, April 28th.  The Sun-Mercury conjunction on May 9th will also align with both transiting Rahu and his natal Rahu so that is another time window when the Clinton campaign will be on the defensive with an unexpected problem.  As I said, however, I don't think this will change the race very much.

I'm not sure if the Democratic convention will be contested by challenger Bernie Sanders. It's possible, but I think Hillary will prevail anyway.  Bill Clinton's Moon receives a near-exact aspect of Jupiter (27 Leo) at the time of the convention.  This looks likely to represent a Hillary win.

As I mentioned, there could be some setbacks for the Clinton campaign during the run-up general election.  The late August Mars-Saturn conjunction at 15 Scorpio looks like it could afflict the Clinton campaign.  It squares daughter Chelsea's Sun (15 Leo) exactly.  Nonetheless, both Hillary and Bill have some very appropriate winning patterns in their charts.  However, these appear to be focused on early 2017.  For example, Bill has a minor progressed Jupiter direct station in March 2017.  This is a very positive indicator of success, even if it occurs two months after the Inauguration on January 20th and fully four months after the election.  As it happens, Hillary's chart also features a a minor progressed Jupiter station in March 2017.  This seems a little later than I would like to see for an election win in November, but it nonetheless augurs well for her electoral chances.

If we look ahead to election day on November 8th, we can see that transiting Jupiter (18 Virgo) is exactly conjunct Bill Clinton's Venus (18 Virgo).  Since Venus symbolizes the wife, one would think this is good news for Hillary and hence a victory against Cruz, Trump or whomever is on the GOP side.  Jupiter takes on an added resonance for Hillary here since it rules Pisces which is Bill's 7th house of marriage.  Since Jupiter is a benefic planets in most situations, this conjunction is another reason why a Hillary Clinton win is more likely in November.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks drifted higher last week on positive corporate earnings and a rebound in crude oil prices.  The Dow gained less than 1% on the week closing at 18,003 and the Indian Sensex also posted gains finishing at 25,838.  This positive outcome was in line with expectations from last week's market forecast, as I thought the Venus-Uranus conjunction would likely correspond with some upside.

This week has started modestly lower across the board, most likely due to the conjunction of the Moon with malefics Mars and Saturn as I noted in my weekend newsletter.   Of course, this week the focus will be on Wednesday's Fed meeting where Janet Yellen will provide the latest guidance on interest rates and the economy.  Most observers do not expect a hike this week but she may give important hints on the probability of a June rate hike.  Interestingly, Mercury turns retrograde on Thursday so that is another reason to think there could be a shift in investor expectations this week.  Since Mercury aligns with Mars for much of the week, there may be an elevated level of tension.  It seems unlikely that stocks can continue to rise in this tense environment and indeed some downside looks like a more likely outcome here.

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter includes discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Doha talks fail as Mars turns retrograde; oil falls below $40

(18 April 2016)  Crude oil tumbled below $40 a barrel Monday as OPEC failed to come to an agreement to cut production. The much-anticipated Doha talks were intended to reduce output and thereby boost sagging oil prices.  Interestingly, the collapse of the talks came the same day as Mars turned retrograde.  Mars retrograde stations only occur about once every two years and are often symbolic of times of heightened tension and discord.  Mars is often an aggressive and irascible energy but the periods around its stations (i.e. direction reversal) may be times when it is more potent in that regard.  It may be on reason why it was impossible to get the different parties to compromise and agree to a deal.

Oil is in a nasty bear market these days with no end in sight.  As the world economy struggles, demand is down.  Political pressure for alternative fuels may also be reducing demand and that pressure is only going to increase in the future.  As I noted in a December forecast of oil prices, the current dasha period is very difficult these days.  Using the horoscope of the Brent Crude chart, I suggested that the bear market since 2014 is partially due to an inauspicious Mercury-Saturn dasha period. 

Interestingly, the failure of the Doha talks on Sunday occurred on the very same day as the beginning of the new Ketu dasha period -- April 17, 2016 according to the Krishnamurthi ayanamsha.   Ketu is often a negative influence, especially on matter relating to wealth and value.  Ketu is likely to be even more problematic for oil prices since it is conjunct Mars in the natal chart. In that previous December post, I had suggested that the Ketu dasha would likely see oil prices remain under pressure and likely fall further.  We're only one day (!) into the 7-year long Ketu major dasha period, but so far Ketu is fulfilling its reputation for maleficence.

On the final day of the Doha meeting, we can see that Mars (14 Scorpio) turned retrograde while in opposition to natal Saturn (20 Taurus).  Transiting Saturn (21 Scorpio) is also opposite natal Saturn and square to the Sun (19 Leo) so that may be a source of additional pressure on prices.  One of the basic tenets of financial astrology is that Mars and Saturn tend to depress prices when they are involved in transit alignments.  As always, it is best not to rely on only one astrological indicator like dashas.  Transits, progressions, and return charts are useful sources of confirming evidence.  That is very much the case here where the Brent chart is both 1) in a negative dasha period and 2) under difficult transits. 

I would expect oil prices to remain low and probably fall further during this initial Ketu-Ketu dasha period which lasts until September 2016.  The following Ketu-Venus period will extend from Sept 2016 to Nov 2017 and could see a significant rebound begin in oil prices.  Venus is a benefic planetary influence in any event, and it is fairly well-placed in the Brent horoscope as it is in the 11th house.  It may be under pressure from the aspect of Saturn, however, there so that may mean we are unlikely to return to the old prices above $100. 

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks were higher last week on a positive corporate earnings outlook and a weaker US Dollar.  The Dow climbed almost 2% to 17,897 in New York, while Indian shares fared even better as the Sensex gained 3% to 25,626.  I had been fairly neutral about the week as a whole, although I noted some bullish influences midweek on the Mercury-Jupiter aspect.  Stocks did rise at that time but the upside was greater than I would have expected.  As it turned out, the potentially bearish alignments I noted for Monday and Friday didn't yield much downside. 

Global stocks were mostly negative Monday, presumably on the Venus-Saturn alignment and the initial aftermath of the Mars retrograde station.  US stocks reversed early and finished higher, however. The late week Venus-Uranus conjunction should coincide with some upside this week.  The fact that this conjunction also aligns with Rahu, Uranus and Mercury suggests we could actually see those gains occur at almost any time in the week.  It is hard to be too negative this week, although retrograde Mars could generate some surprises.  I tend to think that we won't see the negative Mars influence manifest until next week when it aligns with Mercury, which is also due to station retrograde on Thursday -- the day after the latest Fed meeting!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mars upsets Trump as Cruz gains ground

(11 April 2016) After looking like an unstoppable political force for months, the candidacy of GOP front-runner Donald Trump is looking more vulnerable these days   Not only was Trump soundly defeated by Ted Cruz in the recent Wisconsin primary, but the Cruz camp has been doing a much better job of collecting delegate support than Trump.   Primary results notwithstanding, delegate selection is critical in the event of a contested convention.  Most delegates only have to vote for the state winner on the first convention ballot, so on any subsequent ballots they are free to vote for whoever they want.  

Trump still enjoys a big lead in delegates over Ted Cruz but more commentators are now suggesting that it will be more difficult for him to reach the magic number of 1237 needed for a first ballot win at the convention in Cleveland on July 21st.   Some scenarios even have him attaining the 1237 mark by the convention, but still losing the nomination because some delegates may change their mind.  Needless to say, it promises to be a very eventful and chaotic convention.

Trump is now facing an uphill battle as the leadership of the Republican Party is now openly seeking ways to defeat him.  It has even come to the point where all the GOP candidates Trump, Cruz, and Kasich are questioning whether they will endorse the party's nominee after the convention.  This raises the likelihood of a fractured GOP and the possibility of an independent third party run by whoever loses the convention. 

The refusal of the candidates to come together around a single candidate has meant that the odds of an open convention are now greater than 50% on political betting markets.  The GOP itself seems on the verge of self-destruction as pro-Trump and anti-Trump camps appear to be moving beyond the point of compromise. This loss of momentum has been reflected in the political betting markets such as Predictit, Predictwise and Pivit.   The site showed the probability of a Trump nomination topping out just days before March 1st Super Tuesday at 84%.  As this chart tracking a Trump nomination shows, it has been falling ever since and has taken its greatest hit in the past two weeks.   Trump is still favoured to beat Cruz but now the margin is only 10%.

I am not surprised by Trump's recent difficulties.  In February, I had predicted that Trump would begin to experience some setbacks in March and that his momentum would likely stall.  I wrote that he would likely experience a significant setback "sometime between mid-March and mid-April".  This has more or less come to pass.  I thought that this setback could manifest as both electoral defeats and formal obstacles to the nomination.   The losses in March and early April have made the path to 1237 very difficult mathematically and now both remaining candidates are unlikely to support him if he actually wins. 

These troubles coincide with the close aspect of transiting Mars (14 Scorpio) to Trump's 11th house Mercury (15 Gemini).  With Mars slowing down ahead of its retrograde station on the 17th, Mars has been in close range of his Mercury for two weeks or more.  The 8th house aspect (=210 degrees) can be especially nasty in Vedic astrology and since Mars is due to station next week on that same degree, Trump will likely continue to feel under pressure from all sides.  Once Mars turns retrograde, however, things could get better for Trump as it begins to move away from his Mercury.  This should coincide with improved electoral outcomes for Trump as he is widely expected to carry the Eastern states like New York and Pennsylvania which vote on the 19th and 26th, respectively.

The horoscope of the Ted Cruz campaign suggests he is more likely to win the convention.  The convention will likely (!) be decided on July 21.  The Cruz campaign chart looks very good around that time.  Uranus (0 Aries) will be just days away from stationing retrograde exactly on the "MC" (=10th house cusp) and Mars of this chart.  Uranus aspects to the 10th house cusp are classic indicator for sudden or shocking events pertaining to career and status.  The fact that Mars is also there considerably ratchets up the power of this conjunction.  Jupiter (26 Leo) will aspecting the Moon (25 Aries) within one degree and both Sun and Venus will be a few degrees from the natal Jupiter.  

By contrast, the Trump campaign chart will have Mars casting its onerous 8th house aspect to the triple conjunction of Moon, Sun, and Mars.   That looks like way too much Mars energy and frustration to me, even if it is a little past exact.  Actually, Mars stations at 29 Libra on June 29th so that could create a lot of chaos and bad feelings for Trump in the weeks leading up to the convention.  For all the energy, initiative and assertiveness of Mars which can sometimes be harnessed productively, this 8th house aspect just looks like Trump loses on the convention floor in a very intense and emotional fight. 

I don't have a strong opinion of whether Trump will launch an independent campaign after he loses.  One would think he will given his continuing level of popularity and his alienation from the GOP.   But Ted Cruz looks much more likely to be the GOP nominee coming out of the convention in Cleveland.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks generally retreated last week as confusion over the direction of US interest rates prompted some investors to take money off the table.  US stocks lost more than 1% as the Dow closed at 17,576.  Indian shares fell by 2% to 24,673 as the market was disappointed by the modest 25 basis point rate cut by the RBI.   This modestly negative outcome was not too surprising as I had taken a fairly neutral stance in last week's market forecast.  As expected, Tuesday's Sun-Saturn alignment correlated with some declines.  The rest of the week was more mixed.

Yhis week Monday has been mostly positive although US markets reversed lower by the close.  This week looks rather mixed again.  Tuesday's Mars-Venus alignment hints at some negativity but the Mercury-Jupiter aspect will strengthen on Wednesday and Thursday and could produce at least some upside.  While Friday's Mercury-Saturn alignment seems somewhat bearish, it may not be enough to produce a down week overall.   Mars turns retrograde on Sunday the 17th so that is a wild card factor of sorts.   Like Saturn turning retrograde in late March, this Mars retrograde station could correlate with some markets reversing their dominant trend. 

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter includes discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Yellen takes rate hike off the table: Is the Fed trapped?

(4 April 2016)  Fed Chair Janet Yellen is definitely living up to her reputation as a Keynesian inflation "dove".  After keeping interest rates unchanged at the last Fed meeting in -mid-March, Ms. Yellen last week essentially precluded any early rate hikes as she cited continued global uncertainty, especially in China.  Despite an improving US economy and a domestic inflation rate that is now pushing up against that important 2% threshold, Yellen and the Fed are increasingly reluctant to raise rates lest it cause more global fallout.   The Fed's long-awaited hike in December sparked a big global sell-off in stocks and that may have forced Yellen to re-think her plan to normalize rates.  It seems she is willing to accept a higher rate of US inflation in order to keep the status quo intact.

Despite Yellen's confident reassurances, more commentators now see the Fed as being trapped in its low interest rate policy.  The Fed may want to raise rates to combat rising inflation but it is increasingly beholden to stock markets both in the US and around the world.  Since the Fed emphasizes the link between a buoyant stock market and economic growth, it is reluctant to do anything that would cause stocks to fall.  As a result, the Fed may never be able to normalize rates in the current environment since any attempt to do so could cause a massive global stock market sell-off. 

So is there a downside for the Fed to keep rates near zero indefinitely?  If the current low-growth environment continues, then things could go on as is for a while without too much damage.  But if there is another deflationary crisis originating out of China or Europe, then the Fed would have to go to negative interest rates.  Such a move may well be theoretically stimulative for the economy, but it would likely frighten markets.  Conversely, if US inflation continues to rise and exceeds 2%, then the bond market would likely be the first to blink as yields would begin to rise.  Rising yields is the last thing the Fed wants since it is trying to encourage banks to lend more, so the Fed would be forced finally to raise rates. 

The horoscope of the Federal Reserve (Dec 23 1913, 6.02 p.m.) reflects this growing stress.  We see that transiting Saturn (obstacles, disappointment) is in a close conjunction with Mercury (communication, rationality) over the past several weeks.  For an additional sense of frustration, Saturn is now also opposite its natal position.  Saturn is forcing the Fed into making very difficult and onerous decisions.  Markets are also more aware of the Fed's conundrum now as Yellen allows inflation to rise to a potentially troublesome level.  Analysts now realize that central banks have limits (Saturn) and can only do so much to fix the economy.  Questions are also being raised about how the Fed is now acting beyond its mandate, which was supposedly focused only on keeping inflation low and promoting full employment.   With Saturn now retrograde, it is moving very slowly so I would expect the Fed's credibility problems to continue and even intensify in the coming weeks.  These problems may be the result of new financial challenges for global markets and the growing perception that it is trapped and 'out of bullets'. 

But the Fed's horoscope has other afflictions also.  Transiting Rahu has been conjunct natal Ketu since February and this is another reason for its state of uncertainty.  These nodal (i.e. Rahu and Ketu) contacts are classic indicators of instability and change.  No doubt Yellen had to give up her hope for more rate increases for 2016 given the sell-off after December and all the slowdown and devaluation talk surrounding China.   The Lunar Nodes move slowly so this affliction isn't over yet.  It should continue through April and into May. It may mean that the Fed will struggle to stay ahead of quickly changing circumstances in the world economy.  It may also mean that there will be more questions about its ability to deal with economic problems. 

Of course, afflictions to the Fed horoscope are only an indirect influence on financial markets.  It is possible that stocks could remain relatively strong through this April and May period during the Rahu-Ketu conjunction and the Saturn conjunction to Mercury.  However, I would think that any trouble at the Fed is probably not good news for stock markets, all other things being equal. 

The longer term influences don't look much better as the Uranus-Pluto square remains within range of the Ascendant-Mars conjunction in the Fed horoscope.  This speaks to severe disruptions and shocks to the system over the next year at least.  Uranus stations at 0 Aries in July and then comes back to square the natal Mars in December of 2016.  This is a troublesome influence that suggests sudden changes that upset the status quo.  Pluto moves more slowly so it will not exactly oppose the Ascendant-Mars pairing until 2018.  It also looks like bad news for the Federal Reserve and hints at power plays and coercion in which the Fed gets the short end of the stick.  This could symbolize a few different things such as a damning audit of the Fed from Congress, or perhaps a nasty currency war with China that forces Yellen's hand to raise rates. And if China sold its considerable holdings of US Treasuries, it would force US rates much higher. 

Weekly Market Forecast

US stocks were generally higher last week following those dovish comments by Janet Yellen as the Dow rose more than 1% to 17,792.  Indian stocks were mostly flat as investors prepared for the latest policy announcement by the RBI.  The Sensex was slightly lower on the week to 25,269. 

The resilience of most markets has been a little surprising following the recent Saturn retrograde station (March 25) and lunar eclipse (March 23).  I thought we might have seen more in the way of caution and uncertainty in light of these potentially destabilizing influences.  To be sure, most European and Asian markets have been weaker since these late March celestial phenomena but the US market has so far remained unaffected.

Stocks were mixed on Monday with a modest decline in New York.  Tuesday's Sun-Saturn alignment may also depress sentiment although perhaps not by much.  The most interesting alignment this week involves Mercury and Venus.  Both of these planets are considered positive so their 30 degree alignment is nominally bullish.  This alignment is closest Tuesday and Wednesday.  However, some of this positivity may be lost since both Mercury and Venus are associated with Saturn through a lesser 15 degree angle (N.B. 15 degrees is also a divisor of 360 degrees).  Saturn is often bearish and its presence in this alignment may limit gains.   The late week Sun-Uranus conjunction looks more bullish.  Overall, it's a very mixed picture and I do not have a strong opinion about where stocks will finish this week.  But as Mars edges closer to its retrograde station on 17th April, I would think optimism may be in shorter supply.  Mars will station at 14 Scorpio, just 7 degrees away from Saturn at 21 Scorpio.  Both malefic planets will then move backward in tandem through Scorpio.  It's hard to see stocks rallying against this heavy Scorpionic influence.

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter includes discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Germans reject Merkel's refugee policy in state elections

(14 March 2016) German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her CDU party suffered major losses in Sunday's state elections as voters weighed in on the refugee crisis. German voters moved away from Merkel's open-door policy and awarded large gains to the right-wing anti-immigrant AfD party (Alternative for Germany) in three states.  This electoral shift will force the mainstream CDU and SPD parties to seek new and less stable alliances with smaller parties.  Recent polls show that up to 80% of German people now oppose Merkel's policy and most want to stop the influx of refugees from the Middle East.  Merkel has vowed to continue her more liberal approach despite his most strnging rebuke at the ballot box.

We can see how Merkel's horoscope is currently under heavy affliction by Saturn, the planet of loss, frustration and disappointment.  Transiting Saturn sits at 22 degrees of sidereal Scorpio just ahead of its retrograde station on 25th March.  Ms. Merkel's Ascendant is just a couple of degrees away at 20 Scorpio.  The unusually slow velocity of Saturn ahead of its station makes this Saturn transit even more burdensome than would otherwise by the case.  Saturn-to-Ascendant transits are classic indicators of defeats and setbacks of all kinds.  Fortunately, they only happen once every 29 years. 

The other problem with this Saturn transit is that it exactly aspects her Moon (22 Capricorn) by full-strength 3rd house (sextile) aspect. Saturn-to-Moon transits typically coincide with times of disappointment and sadness, especially in this case where the aspect is near-exact and Saturn stations retrograde on the same degree.  So this is a double dose of Saturn to the two most sensitive points in the chart, the Ascendant and the Moon.  It's very hard to win elections under these kinds of planetary influences.

Saturn transits are not always so difficult, however.  Sometimes these Saturn transits can coincide with events that suggest a constructive fulfillment of responsibility and even major life achievement. And this may well be the case in Merkel's own mind as she stubbornly sticks with this policy despite all the opposition.  To determine if such Saturn transits are going to bring about negative life outcomes we need to look at: 1) the role of Saturn in her natal chart and 2) other current transit hits to her natal chart.  Saturn occupies the 12th house of loss in her natal chart so all that negative energy of Saturn is brought forth to the Ascendant at this time.  If Merkel had been born with Saturn in the 10th or 11th house, it is possible this Saturn transit to her Ascendant might not have been so bad. 

Other chart factors did not look good on election day.  Transiting Mercury (20 Aquarius) was under the destabilizing influence of an aspect from Ketu (21 Gemini) while the transiting Sun (29 Aquarius) was under close square aspect from Mars (3 Sagittarius).  We might have thought Merkel could have got more of a boost from the transiting Jupiter (23 Leo) in the 10th house but even there, Jupiter was arguably weakened and its aims distorted by the close aspect from natal Rahu (21 Sagittarius).  Jupiter in the 10th house can bring prominence and status but in this case, for all the wrong reasons thanks to its Rahu-influenced weakness in addition to the Saturn transits. 

A growing number of voices are calling for Merkel's resignation as she is increasingly seen as politically toxic to her CDU party.  I do not have a strong opinion on whether she will resign before the next election in October 2017.  I do see that the transits for this fall do not look good, however.  At that time, transiting Saturn will come back to its current position at 21-22 Scorpio (after completing its retrograde cycle) and will therefore simultaneously afflict the Ascendant and Moon all over again.  Even worse, this time transiting Rahu will sit on the equal 10th house cusp suggesting 'interruptions to status'. 

And just to top it all off, transiting Rahu will be in aspect with natal Rahu with just a few degrees from June to November.  Whether she actually resigns is hard to say but certainly this period looks even worse for her. No doubt much of the pressure will come from the Brexit which I expect to occur after the June referendum.  With the very survival of the EU at stake after the departure of the UK, it seems unlikely that Merkel would leave in such as crisis-laden environment. 

Interestingly, we can see how these transits are also hitting the Germany 1871 horoscope.  The chart has an Ascendant of 19 Taurus so the Saturn station hits the 7th house cusp within three degrees and thereby afflicts the Ascendant (the nation as a whole).  All the potential benefits of transiting Jupiter (23 Leo) are weakened and distorted by virtue of the influence of natal Ketu (18 Sagittarius).  As Rahu/Ketu move closer to the equal house cusps of the 10th (19 Aquarius) and 4th (19 Leo) houses in the summer, Germany's problems will likely worsen.  Saturn will still be afflicting the Ascendant and aspecting the natal Venus (happiness, income) by sextile/3rd house aspect.  The conjunction of Rahu to the 10th house could make governing much more difficult.  Merkel and Germany are therefore both going to be hit hard by these combined Saturn and Rahu/Ketu influences for most of 2016. 

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks drifted higher last week after the European Central Bank moved further into the never-never land of negative interest rates in its latest attempt to conjure some growth out of that limp and stagnant economy.  In New York, the Dow gained more than 1% to 17,312.  Indian stocks rose modestly as the BSE-Sensex finished the week at 24,717.  In last week's market forecast, I thought we might have seen a little more downside, especially in the wake of the solar eclipse, but buyers generally had the last word. 

This week has started off mixed as Asians and European markets were generally positive while the US are now trading modestly in the red at the time of writing.  Gold and oil are also down in Monday trading. The Mars-Venus square is the most likely culprit for this selling although it seems that the Jupiter-Pluto aspect may be offering some planetary support to the market here.  Mercury is in opposition aspect with Jupiter on Tuesday so that might give stocks another small boost.  Fed Chair Janet Yellen are due to make their latest policy announcement on Wednesday afternoon.  Mercury conjoins Ketu (South Lunar Node) at that time, so we could see some surprises arise that day which create uncertainty as Mercury's rationality is undermined and redirected by the intuition of Ketu. 

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter includes discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Eclipses: times of change and uncertainty

(7 March 2016) Since time immemorial, eclipses have been regarded with dread and fear.  The inexplicable period of daytime darkness brought by the solar eclipse was seen by pre-scientific societies as an evil omen and the harbinger of all manner of disaster and privation.  Similarly, lunar eclipses were also looked upon with suspicion as the comforting glow of the luminous Moon suddenly turned dark and changed to an evil red colour.  While we now live in an enlightened age of computers marked by exponentially expanding scientific knowledge, eclipses remain singular and wondrous celestial phenomena. Even beyond their aesthetic allure, eclipses retain a undeniable mystique.  They link us with our primitive past and recall a time when the heavens were a source of earthly inspiration.  As another solar eclipse is due on Wednesday (with totality in Indonesia), it is a good time to remind ourselves of the astrological legacy of eclipses.

In astrology, eclipses are still hugely important.  Just as the light from the Sun temporarily disappears from view, eclipses are seen as interruptions of the status quo. Instability and change are often stressful and therefore eclipses may be more likely to bring about shifts in our routine, for better or worse.  While traditional eclipse symbolism focuses on the negative impact of change and forced adaptation to new circumstances, evidence suggests that some eclipses bring about positive change. 

For example, the last solar eclipse before the 2008 US election occurred on August 1st just three days before President Obama's birthday.    In other words, the solar eclipse occurred at 15 degrees of sidereal Cancer, just four degrees short of the position of his natal Sun at 19 Cancer.  The Sun symbolizes leadership and status and hence Obama's status was soon to undergo a significant change after the eclipse at the time of the November election.   We can even see how the election of first black President occurred after a solar eclipse that closely conjoined Rahu (15 Cancer) in the USA horoscope (not shown).  Vedic astrology teaches us that Rahu (North Lunar Node) represents outsiders, especially those who differ from the mainstream in terms of their religion, ethnicity or race.  Barack Obama was therefore the embodiment of this Rahu influence with respect to the USA. 

In a more ominous vein, the last lunar eclipse before the assassination of John F. Kennedy closely conjoined the Sun in the USA horoscope.  The July 6 lunar eclipse occurred at 20 Gemini, just two degrees from the Sun (22 Gemini) in the USA chart.  The eclipsing of a nation's Sun may be interpreted most generally as "sudden changes to leaders" without necessarily pointing to death.  Other factors no doubt had a hand in shaping the larger planetary picture of that terrible event.  In JFK's own horoscope, the last solar eclipse before his death occurred on July 20th at 4 Cancer -- exactly conjunct his 10th house Saturn, the planet of loss and suffering.

It may be worth noting that the last lunar eclipse before this year's US election occurs on September 16th at 0 Pisces which is exactly conjunct Hillary Clinton's Moon if we use the 8 a.m. birth time for her (Her birth time is contested).   This would seem to point to a sharp increase her public profile in the period following the eclipse at election time.  It seems broadly supportive of an election win.  However, this eclipse is not aligned with the Venus (= women) in the USA horoscope as we might expect so that is perhaps one small piece of evidence that argues against her becoming president. 

The ups and downs of the stock market also provide a fertile laboratory to test the effects of eclipses on collective human sentiment.  Following our basic assertion, we can suggest that eclipses are neither inherently positive or negative for stocks.  Rather, it may make more sense to think of them as indicators of a trend change.  While I have not conducted an extensive research of eclipse effects, my basic view suggests that the two-week eclipse period seems to correlate with trend changes more than chance would predict. 

It is important to think of eclipses occurring in pairs (solar and lunar) which are separated by about 14 days. The period is best taken as a time block although trend changes may cluster around one eclipse or the other.  But eclipses seem to predict trend changes only about 50% of the time.  Alas, there are many eclipses that don't have any apparent effect on stocks at all. 

This two-year chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) shows how eclipses appear to correlate with the market. The previous eclipse period in September 2015 fit quite nicely with the bottoming process of the market after the big decline in August. After the lunar eclipse on September 28th, markets began to rebounded strongly.  The significant interim low occurred just one day after the second eclipse of the pair.  In this case, the eclipse period reflected a sense of uncertainty and instability and only after the eclipses were over did the market begin to rise as investors regained their confidence.

However, the precious eclipse period in March-April 2015 didn't correlate with anything much in US markets.  Stocks moved mostly sideways,. although they were very close to their high.  On the other hand, some global markets did indeed peak around this eclipse period.  Germany's DAX made its all-time high on April 10th just six days after the lunar eclipse while India's Sensex peaked on March 4th some two weeks before the solar eclipse.  In this case, the eclipse period occurred after a rally and therefore may have signaled a trend change from a rising market to a falling one. 

The October 2014 eclipse period also correlated quite closely with the bottom in most stock markets.  The low for most markets occurred on October 15th which was right in the middle of the eclipse period of October 8-23.  While neither eclipse was closely predictive of the low and subsequent reversal higher, the period as a whole nonetheless fit well with the trend change.  This low and subsequent trend change occurred across most global stock markets in mid-October 2014. 

The preceding eclipse period of April 2014 was only weakly correlated, however.  We did see a minor low on the same day as the lunar eclipse (April 15th) after which stocks moved higher.   Stocks had been falling into that lunar eclipse and then abruptly reversed direction.   This did not mark a significant development in the market, however, as stocks generally moved higher in subsequent weeks.

The takeaway here is that eclipses are worth paying attention to, even if they they issue some false signals.  No single factor is 100% correct, of course, but hopefully if we take enough of them together, we can form a more complete picture of market direction.  

Given the recent up trend in stocks, one would think that the downside risk is higher now that the eclipse period is upon us. The solar eclipse occurs on March 9th (GMT) while the lunar eclipse takes place on the 23rd.  Both are possible pivot points for stocks although the period as a whole is perhaps better seen as a time when markets are more likely to experience uncertainty which could jeopardize the rebound.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks moved higher last week on US economic data and expectation of more central bank easing in Europe and Asia.  The Dow climbed 2% on the week to 17,006 while India's Sensex soared 6% to 24,646.  Indian investors reacted favourably to the latest budget measures which hinted at RBI interest rate cuts.   While the midweek gains were not surprising, the absence of any late week selling on the Mars-Mercury aspect was unexpected given that fairly reliable bearish influence. 

This week's eclipse could be unsettling, especially after Tuesday's Sun-Jupiter opposition.  The late week Sun-Ketu conjunction may be even more problematic, however.   This could be a negative influence on stocks and most commodities such as oil and gold.  Bullish Jupiter is now moving out of alignment with Uranus but it's still fairly close to its alignment with Pluto. So that may indicate a diminishing positive influence this week and throughout the month of March.  And once Jupiter moves past Pluto next week, it will have to endure the full force of bearish Saturn alone.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Donald Trump poised to win big on Super Tuesday

(29 February 2016)  On the eve of Super Tuesday, the Donald Trump juggernaut is on the verge of gaining a stranglehold in the race for the GOP nomination.  The outspoken real estate businessman and reality television star already enjoys a big lead in delegates and popular support and looks certain to further cement his dominance before the July convention.  Most analysts expect him to win all but the Texas primary tomorrow and become the inevitable choice of the Republican Party despite fierce opposition from the party establishment. 

Trump has become a polarizing figure in this strangest of primary seasons in the 2016 election cycle.  He is clearly the most popular candidate in the field with most polls putting him near 40% support among Republicans.  However, a near-equal number of Republicans strongly disapprove of him as they see him as an unpredictable opportunist who is not really conservative. 

When I first discussed Trump's horoscope back in the summer of 2015, I thought his chart looked strong enough to win some early February primaries but would likely falter after that.  I thought he was unlikely to win the nomination in July and quite unlikely to win the presidency in November.  He has won three our of four of those early February primaries but he is much stronger than I thought he would be.  As I saw it, his horoscope looked more difficult starting in March and that he would encounter more opposition. 

Well, here we are on the last day of February and Donald Trump is flying high with political betting markets putting him near an 80% probability of winning the GOP nomination.  Clearly, I have underestimated the strength of his chart.  And yet, there is a lot of opposition to him across the political spectrum.  The recent big wins in Nevada and South Carolina reflect his popularity but with each win there has been an intensification of opposition from main rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, as well as party standard bearers like Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee. 

In this unprecedented primary season, opposition has taken the form of formal and organizational opposition rather than popular opposition.  That was my basic mistake.  When I saw various malefic transit hits to Trump's chart in early March, I thought it would manifest as diminishing vote totals rather than a full-fledged opposition from the party itself.  Much to the dismay of the party faithful, Trump has basically taken over the GOP and its time-worn principles.  Marco Rubio calls him a con-man who has hijacked the party.  Some analysts suggest that the GOP itself may be on the verge of dissolving as a result of Trump's coup d'etat.  Or perhaps it is merely evolving into a nativist, populist movement as a logical reaction to years of falling real wages as a result of the failure of globalization. 

As transiting Mars transits further into Scorpio in March, I expected more troubles for Trump.  Now I realize they may simply reflect more official hostility to his campaign rather than actual election defeats.  Trump may well run the table tomorrow on Super Tuesday (except for Cruz's Texas) and could even do well on March 15th, the next big multi-primary prize.  However, I think it is important to note that this opposition to his campaign is not merely a passing sentiment or formal disapproval.  It likely will have tangible consequences for him at some point before the convention. 

If this was a nomination race like any other, Trump's lead would be so large as to force rivals to drop out as the party coalesces before the convention to prepare to face their real foe, Hillary Clinton. But with Trump laying waste to the party establishment, rivals are more likely to stay in the race longer in order to take the fight all the way to the convention in late July.  Trump's momentum seems unstoppable at this point, so it may be futile for Rubio et al to stay in the race.  And yet if they can somehow prevent Trump from winning 50% +1 of the delegates (i.e. 1237), they may well do so in order to forge an anti-Trump coalition on the convention floor.  The brokered or contested convention is likely Rubio's only chance to stop Trump since it seems certain that Trump will have more delegates than any other candidate by the time the primaries end in June. 

Trump can win the lion's share of Super Tuesday delegates but since those states only award delegates proportionally he will only incrementally increase his lead.  The key will be what happens on March 15th (mini-Super Tuesday) when state primaries award delegates on a winner-take-all basis.  This is where Trump will need to do well in order to get past that 1237 threshold before the convention.  Rubio's home state of Florida votes on March 15th and has 99 delegates.  Gov. John Kasich's home state of Ohio also votes that day and has 66 delegates.  Illinois (69) and Missouri (52) are also big states that Trump needs to win to put a lock on the nomination.  Of course, Trump is currently ahead in the polls in all these states but it remains to be seen if he can maintain this momentum.

I still think Trump will experience a significant setback in the race sometime soon, probably between mid-March and mid-April.  My guess is it could occur both in terms of electoral setbacks as well as formal obstacles to his nomination.  Former GOP nominee Mitt Romney has made it plain that he doesn't like Trump and wants to see him defeated.  Some analysts have even suggested that Romney could enter the race at the last minute if Marco Rubio is faltering.   As this bizarre GOP circus unfolds, one gets a sense that this year anything is possible.

So I could be wrong and Donald Trump could well end up winning the nomination.   And yet how to explain the heavy affliction in June and July by Mars and Uranus?  Mars stations at 29 Libra on June 29th in an exact 8th house aspect to Trump's natal Sun.  Is this simply a lot of energy (Mars) for Trump's ego (Sun) in the midst of a battle?  It could be, but it also carries a bigger risk of a defeat or attack that damages him.  A physical attack of some kind is also within the realm of possibility here given that the Sun rules his 1st house (the body) 

Also, Uranus (0 Aries) stations in an exact square to his Saturn (0 Cancer) in July and August.  This is symbolic of intense and sudden developments which are stressful.  There is also a residual negativity in this pattern which is unhelpful for Trump fulfilling his wishes.  In addition, Saturn (16 Scorpio) is approaching its station at 17 Scorpio in August and it will align closely with his all-important 11th house Mercury (15 Gemini).  This is a very heavy and difficult influence that seems unlikely to correspond with the usual sense of personal victory and glory winning candidates enjoy at a convention. 

Perhaps he could conceivably still win the nomination at the convention but face fierce and embarrassing opposition in the form of protests or even an independent splinter movement within the GOP.   The Trump Pyrrhic victory, in other words. And a defeat is still very possible given these active transits.   These transits therefore suggest that the nomination will remain contested at least until early July and possibly right up to the convention.  Betting markets are currently putting the odds of a brokered convention at about 25%.  The planetary patterns suggest it may be much higher, probably more than 50%. 

Another angle on this question can be seen in the chart of the previous nominee, Mitt Romney.  He wants Trump to lose and for Rubio to win.  One would think that his chart (which we have a birth time for) would provide useful evidence for what happens at the convention.  If Romney's chart looks good that day, then it is hard to imagine how Trump will win the convention.  As I see it, Romney's horoscope does look pretty good.  Transiting Jupiter is in close opposition to his 10th house Sun (recognition, achievement) while transiting Sun and Mars set up nicely on his Moon-Jupiter conjunction.  The Mars is a bit of a question mark but the Sun's trine to Moon-Jupiter elevates the net effect and makes the whole alignment positive. 

Yes, transiting Saturn (16 Scorpio) is aspecting his 1st ruler Venus.  This is not a good transit for winning anything perhaps.  That said, given the weight of all the influences, the Saturn-Venus transit may simply be Romney's sense of fulfilling his responsbiliity (Saturn) as de facto senior spokesman of the GOP.  He may know that the brokered, chaotic convention will be bad for the GOP's fortunes in the November election against Hillary Clinton, but it is necessary to preserve his status within the party and to keep Trump out.  That is one possible reading at least.

The bottom line here is that the GOP race may well remain undecided and/or contested until July and perhaps right down to the end of the convention on July 21st. This is likely to create a significant amount of uncertainty which will negatively affect financial markets.  Wall Street and corporate America don't like Trump anyway since his protectionist policies would put an end to the free trade bonanza they have enjoyed over the past thirty years.   A Trump nomination would likely spark a big decline in stocks at least in the short run.  And with Brexit from the EU looking quite likely in June, we could be looking at a very turbulent early summer period.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks generally rose last week on better than expected US GDP data which allayed recession fears.  The Dow gained more than 1% on the week to 16,639.  Indian stocks declined, however, as investors weighed the impact of a rising Dollar and reduced FII inflows. The Sensex lost 2% to 23,154.  In last week's forecast, I hinted at a mix of influences with some downside more likely in the second half of the week on the Mercury-Saturn aspect.  Indian stocks fell under this aspect although US and European stocks fared better. 

Stocks in Asia and Europe were mostly down on Monday and have opened flat in the US.  The culprit was likely the close aspect of Saturn to Venus.  While we could see some upside into midweek, the planets look more bearish in the second half.  The Sun forms a square alignment with Saturn while Friday features a tense Mars square to Mercury.  Both of these are bearish influences. 

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter includes discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.