Sunday, August 16, 2009

Markets cautious ahead of major planetary alignment

Stocks in New York finished slightly lower last week as disappointing retail sales weighed against improved industrial production data. After trading at key resistance levels on Thursday, the Dow closed at 9321 and the S&P at 1004. Meanwhile, Indian shares managed to move modestly higher after hitting midweek lows of 4400 on the Nifty. While still significantly below recent highs, the Nifty closed at 4580 and the Sensex at 15,411. This middling sort of outcome was more or less in line with expectations as the early week declines on the Mars-Saturn square were offset by the Sun-Mars-Jupiter alignment on Wednesday and Thursday. As is often the case, Friday's decline in New York came on the heels of this positive aspect and was not unduly surprising, particularly since our outlook is generally bearish here.

This week promises to be even more volatile as there are two very potent multi-planet alignments that form exact angles early on. Monday will feature an apparently bearish Mercury-Saturn conjunction at 27 Leo. Generally speaking Saturn contacts are considered bad news for stocks and this one is perhaps more likely to signal a retreat because Jupiter is also involved. Jupiter (27 Capricorn) sits in a tense 6/8 quincunx aspect with this conjunction and that would appear to bode poorly for markets this week. In addition, no less than four planets -- Sun, Mars, Uranus and Neptune -- are all placed at 1 degree of their respective signs Monday and Tuesday. This adds a lot of planetary fuel to the mix and could magnify any moves this week. The most likely scenario here would appear to be early week decline -- possibly a steep one -- followed by a recovery later as Venus forms a minor aspect with Jupiter on Wednesday and Thursday. Mercury's opposition to Uranus on Friday also has the potential to lift stocks, but perhaps only if we've seen real damage inflicted earlier in the week from the Mercury-Saturn aspect. The negative payload of these planets have to be released first before more positive energies can be expressed.

With Saturn approaching its opposition aspect with Uranus in September, it's very hard to imagine the market going anywhere but down. The more important matter therefore concerns how low could this retracement might go. Given all the tense aspects between now and November and the relative absence of positive ones, it seems that this decline may be much bigger than a garden variety correction.

Prepare the lifeboats.