Saturday, June 2, 2012

Recession on the way? US jobs report disappoints

The world economy took a turn for the worse last week as signs of a slowdown threatened to halt the recovery in its tracks.   India's GDP growth of 5.3% in the first quarter was the lowest in a decade, while the US economy created only 69,000 new jobs in May, falling far short of expectations. With no solution to the Eurozone crisis in sight, fear is on the rise here as US Treasury yields hit record lows with the 10-year note now below 1.5%.  Things have got so bad that investors are willing to forgo any return in favour of safety as yields are now below the level of inflation. 

Fear?  Slowdown? Threat of a new recession?  Let me guess -- Saturn!  As the planet that symbolizes the glass half-empty, Saturn is usually highlighted in some way during times such as these when optimism is in short supply.  Indeed, Saturn's strength has been increasingly over the past several weeks as it formed a tight aspect with stationing Venus just as it entered sidereal Virgo in mid-May.  This kind of clear Saturn aspect activity is frequently correlated with negative economic outlooks and falling stock markets.  Saturn's penchant for gloom and doom was even more likely to strike a chord at the current time because there was no offsetting positive influence from Jupiter. 

Saturn looks likely to remain dominant over Jupiter for a while longer as it approaches its direct station on 25 June. At that time, Saturn will conclude its four-month long retrograde cycle at 28 degrees of Virgo and resume its normal forward motion.  Saturn stations are often times of heightened anxiety, especially if the station occurs in aspect with another planet.  This is very much the case here as it will form a close conjunction in the Ashtamsha varga chart (8th harmonic).  In Western astrological terms, this is a 135 degree aspect.  Interestingly, Venus will also end its retrograde cycle just two days later.  This will likely greatly increase the prominence of Saturn and therefore there will be additional risk for more bad news and more declines in the stock market.  If that weren't enough, the first square aspect between Uranus (change, eccentricity) and Pluto (power, restructuring) occurs in the same week and should ratchet up the risk level.  All this rare planetary interplay could produce some major developments, both financially and geopolitically.  It might even coincide with a significant new policy that addresses the ongoing Eurozone crisis, such as Eurobonds or some functional equivalent that underwrites all sovereign debt. It can't come fast enough to deal with Spain whose 10-year bond yields have now crept up to 6.7% -- almost to that all-important threshold of solvency at 7%.  Unlike Greece, however, Spain may be too big to bailout. Some commentators are now openly considering the possibility that Spain could leave the Euro and return to the peseta.

Given all the gloomy news last week, investors bailed out of stocks and most risky assets and ploughed their money into treasuries, gold and the US Dollar.  In New York, the Dow lost almost 2% closing at 12,118 while the S&P 500 finished at 1278.  The sell-off wiped out all the gains of 2012 as the pullback morphed into something more like a correction.  Stocks in Mumbai also fell as FII outflows underscored the difficult investment environment in India.  The Sensex lost 2% closing at 15,965 while the Nifty ended the week at 4841.  This negative outcome was broadly in keeping with my generally Saturnian expectations here, although the extent of Friday's decline was surprising given the apparently favourable Mercury-Venus conjunction.  Previous aspects played out more according to script as the market did climb early in the week on Tuesday's Moon-Venus aspect and also retreated in time for the midweek Mercury-Mars aspect.

This week looks more mixed with the early week looking a little tense on Monday's Venus-Mars square. Actually, this is part of a larger alignment of Sun, Venus and Mars that does not look supportive of confidence. All three planets are fairly close together so that may complicate how the energy is expressed.  If the aspects do manifest sequentially, then Monday could well be bearish with some relief on the Venus-Sun conjunction on Tuesday.  This is not high probability though given the presence of the disruptive Mars aspect in the mix. The midweek looks better for a rebound as Mercury is in aspect with Jupiter. Interestingly, this may coincide quite closely with the scheduled meeting of the ECB on Wednesday.  Perhaps they will announce something that the market can cheer.  Friday's Sun-Mars aspect looks less positive, however.