Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010 begins with Sun-Mercury-Venus conjunction

As if to underscore the resuscitation of the global economy in 2009, stocks hit their highs for the year last week in advance of the New Year's holiday. In New York, the Dow finally settled off its highs Thursday at 10,428 while the S&P closed at 1115. In Mumbai, equities were up over 80% for the year as the Sensex finished the year at 17,464 while the Nifty closed at 5201. The strength of the market through the second half of December presents a real puzzle, as the number of bearish influences appeared to be growing while the bullish influences were on the wane. In addition to the Mars retrograde cycle which began on Dec 20, Mercury also turned retrograde on Dec 26. Neither of these is usually considered favourable for stocks, although it should be noted that their direct temporal effects are more amorphous than, say, a planetary aspect. The Venus-Saturn-Pluto alignment on Dec 28-29 corresponded with continued strength, although future events may reveal this pattern as pivotal moment where trends were reversed, rather than anything especially bullish. Lurking in the background, the afterglow of the Jupiter-Neptune conjunction, now two degrees past exactitude and still apparently fueling the optimism of prevailing market sentiment.

The extended conjunction between Jupiter, the planet of expansion and wealth, and Neptune, the planet of idealism and dreams, has been a key part of the economic recovery this year. Back in late 2008 near the depths of the meltdown, I expected this conjunction to boost the market through much of 2009 and thought that Dow 10,000 would be a possible target. While that target has been achieved, I have to honestly say that I never expected the stock rally to last this long. Between the Saturn-Uranus opposition in September and November's Saturn-Pluto I thought we would see markets subject to greater stress. This hasn't happened as corrections have been relatively mild due in part to the lengthy contact between Jupiter and Neptune, with a close 30 degree aspect from Uranus lending a helping hand.

2010 begins with a close triple conjunction of Sun, Mercury and Venus early in the week. Sun-Mercury conjoin first on Monday with Mercury and Venus coming together on Tuesday. As the planet of commerce and trading, the condition of Mercury is of particular interest. Its inferior conjunction with the Sun is often difficult as close proximity leads to the affliction known as combustion. By contrast, the Venus influence is often positive, as harmonious feelings are more likely to pervade commercial transactions. Later in the week the Sun and Venus form a minor aspect with retrograde Mars. Contacts with a debilitated and retrograde malefic such as Mars are often problematic and this aspect may coincide with sudden events or a sense of urgency. At the same time, the aspect is not a full strength one, so that would tend to mitigate its effects. While the net effect of these short term aspects may well be negative, what is more important is how they will interact with some of the patterns that occur next week. On the 13th, Saturn turns retrograde in close aspect to President Obama's natal Moon (housing market issues?). Then just two days later, Mercury's direct station occurs on the same day as a annular Solar Eclipse at 1 degree of sidereal Capricorn.

January offers more difficult planetary energies that should put pressure on stocks over the near term, but the planetary aspects generally look more difficult later in the year. April and May will see a very awkward looking Saturn-Uranus-Neptune pattern that will likely prove inimical to further gains. Then the Saturn-Uranus-Pluto t-square will dominate the summer and fall period. This unholy trinity of slow moving bodies is evocative of a state of pessimism and hardship. Although Jupiter will be a frequent visitor in this t-square configuration, it's unclear if its optimism will be enough to induce prices to move higher. Overall, 2010 seems destined to undermine many of the economic gains that were achieved in 2009.