Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Year's Horoscope 2014

(29 December 2013)  As we turn the page on another year, it's time to check the New Year's horoscope to get a glimpse of what may be in store for 2014.  While there are many methods for forecasting the year ahead, I like to examine the position of the planets when the clock strikes midnight on the 1st of January.  Unlike the Pisces New Moon chart in March or the Sun's ingress into tropical Capricorn in December, there is no astronomical significance to this moment in time.  However, observation from past New Year's charts suggest that there may be some suggestive correspondences between the planetary map for midnight 1 January and the events and mood of the collective human consciousness during the year ahead.  In that sense, its significance may be related to the manifestation of the collective consciousness of humanity when the calendar turns.

Some previous New Year's charts have left an unambiguous footprint on the year in question.  The 1989 chart highlighted a very hopeful Mercury-Jupiter aspect the year the Berlin Wall crumbled and Soviet-style communism ended.  Saturn (traditions, structure) was also tightly aspected by Ketu (South Node), the planet that erases boundaries.  The 1963 chart was marked by a very close aspect from Mars to Venus (violence/damage to the beloved) as later that year President John F. Kennedy would be assassinated in Dallas sending shock waves around the world.  Mercury, the 10th house lord (leaders) would also be conjunct malefic Ketu (South Lunar Node) and Saturn. 

The 2001 chart hinted at the 9/11 attacks as Mars was in close square aspect with Neptune ("destructive deception") while Saturn formed a square with Venus ("happiness lost").  Finally, the 2008 January 1st chart featured an alignment of Mars with Pluto and Rahu (North Lunar Node) ("manipulation and distortion causing harm")  as the world would be plunged into the financial meltdown later that year.   Saturn, the planet of loss, was positioned very close to the middle of the 12th house, a house which is most associated with losses.

Putting it charitably, this year's chart does not fill me with optimism (see below).  Mars rises a few degrees from the Ascendant in Washington, DC in close opposition to Uranus and in square aspect to no less than the Moon, Sun, Pluto and Mercury.  This is an incredibly tense and potentially violent alignment of energies.  Mars represents harm and damage, often as a result of violence or sudden events.  Uranus tends to act as an energy multiplier with a tendency towards quick or revolutionary changes.  When it is aligned with a positive planet, Uranus can indicate auspicious scientific breakthroughs, as when man landed on the Moon in 1969 when Jupiter was conjunct Uranus in the 1 January 1969 chart.  The combination of Mars with Uranus seems to indicate either an natural disaster such as an earthquake, or some significant military-type attack which has violent consequences.  Pluto's involvement in the pattern ratchets up the potential for destruction and also introduces some notion of politics and manipulation into the equation. 

The fact that both the Moon and Sun are closely intertwined in this alignment suggests that many people will be affected either directly or indirectly.  The Moon and Sun are planets which have a general association with mankind as a whole as well as the collective mood.  The Sun also has associations with governments and its leaders.  For this reason, this powerful Mars alignment may reflect more civil unrest than usual which causes some larger governments to be overthrown.  Obviously, this happens to some extent every year, but this planetary pattern suggests there will be more of it this year and it will effect more people than usual. 

So what kind of event could this pattern actually represent?  It could be any number of things including a major destructive earthquake, volcano and/or armed conflict.  With Mercury so closely conjunct Pluto here, there could be serious economic harm as a result of the violent event.  It may also bode poorly for the global economy in its own right as Mars was strongly implicated in the 2008 meltdown.  It's prominence in this 2014 New Year's chart opens up that potential door again. 

Ketu (South Lunar Node) also participates in this alignment at arm's length through its trine with the the Moon and Sun.  The fact that Moon's nodes fall so close to the same degree as the Ascendant adds to the potential for turbulence  in 2014. A more hopeful interpretation may instead focus on Ketu's connection with transcendent beliefs and renunciatory practices as found in many ascetic spiritual traditions.  2014 may be witness in a growth in this kind of ascetic or anti-capitalist faith traditions.  Pope Francis has already created some waves in this respect in 2013 by arguing passionately for a return to human values against the unfeeling logic of the global economic system.  The strong Ketu in this chart suggests his message may continue to gain an audience. 

More positively, we can see that Jupiter in Gemini will aspect all of those 4th house planets in Sagittarius.   This will likely mitigate some of the worst implications of the Mars-Uranus-Pluto framework, although I suspect it will do little to prevent some painful collective events from occurring.  Jupiter's aspect is closest to Mercury (18 Sagittarius), so that argues for more technological innovation that will benefit mankind.  Given all the unstable and disruptive Mars energy around this year, we will probably need it!

Financial Markets Update

Meanwhile, financial markets generally moved higher in the Christmas holiday period.   The Dow posted another all-time record high as it hit 16,500.  India's Sensex also climbed back above the 21,000 level.  Reflecting the generally optimistic tone, crude oil moved above $100 for the first time since October.  While I thought we could see some early week gains, the absence of any late week trouble from the Mars influence was a little surprising. 

This week Mars gets another kick at the can.  As we have just discussed, the New Year's chart (Wednesday) looks quite afflicted.  While it is possible the stock market could shake off this kind of negative alignment for a while, it seems more likely that market sentiment will suffer at some point along the way this week.  Further gains would therefore seem more unlikely. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The significance of Venus retrograde

(22 December 2013)  Venus turned retrograde yesterday at 5 degrees of sidereal Capricorn and now begins its 40-day journey backwards through the sky.  Venus goes retrograde about once every 18 months and marks a time when the significations of the planet may enjoy a special resonance in our lives. Venus is usually associated with love, women, art, beauty, money and pleasurable activities such as hobbies, recreation and socializing. 

Venus (Sanskrit: Shukra) is believed to be somewhat more powerful during its retrograde cycle because it is moving more slowly than usual.  As a general rule, slower moving planets are stronger in their effects.  A slow moving retrograde Venus therefore often coincides with a time when its areas of life become more important to us or enjoy a special poignancy.  Friendships may become more meaningful through a sharing of feelings or ideas; a relationship may become better understood as its inner dynamic is revealed; artistic pursuits assume a greater significance in life such as through seeing a brilliant art history documentary or listening to a well known piece of music with fresh ears. The retrograde process implies a certain sense of reviewing or re-assessing some of these Venusian elements in our life. 

Of course, it can still be an excellent time for new social and artistic experiences but these may be interpreted through a retroactive lens.  Someone we meet for the first time reminds us of an old friend, or a movie we see provides new insight on some dimension of ourselves which gives us a greater sense of purpose or belonging.  Venus is less about gaining knowledge and more about experiencing togetherness and beauty.  In that sense, Venus is the planet of happiness and joy whether it derives from the communion of friendship or group membership or the emotional stimulation we can get from the aesthetic realm -- a film, a book, a painting.  The artistic side of Venus may be witnessed with others or alone.  Even if experienced by oneself, the enjoyment of the aesthetic form implies a relationship with the artist and with the community from which the work of art was produced.   At its core, Venus is the planet that puts us in touch with the wider human group and reminds us of our inherent interdependence.

Whether or not the current Venus retrograde cycle will affect you directly depends on your personal horoscope.  Usually, the Venus retrograde period will tend to have more impact on people who were born with important planets along the path of the cycle.  For example,. Venus turned retrograde at 5 Capricorn and will transit back to 19 degrees of Sagittarius by 31 January when it returns to direct motion.  If you were born between 3 January and 19 January, then this Venus retrograde period will likely resonate more strongly with you because Venus will conjoin your Sun at some point in its retrograde cycle.   That is because the Sun is situated at 19 Sagittarius on 3 January and at about 5 Capricorn on 19 January. 

To a lesser extent, we can also say that if you were born between 3 May and 19 May, Venus may be more prominent in your life during this 40-day cycle.  In that case, Venus will form a five sign/120 degree aspect with your natal Sun.  This will tend to create a greater prominence for relationships, happiness and the enjoyment of social situations.  The same angular relationship will exist for people born between 4 July and 21 July, as well as 5 September and 22 September.   Generally speaking, the positive effects of Venus will be more keenly felt by people born near the beginning or end of each time period.  To stretch the effect even further, we could even say that people born around the 3rd to 6th of each month and the 19th to 22nd of each month are somewhat more likely to have stronger Venusian experiences in the next five to six weeks during this retrograde period. 

I should point out, however, that we are only considering the position of the Sun since it has a clear relationship with the calendar.  But the position of the Moon and the Ascendant are even more important for understanding the potential role of Venus in our life during its retrograde cycle.  However, this can only be known by examining the personal horoscope of each individual. 

In financial circles, the symbolism of Venus is related to money, especially the spending and enjoyment of money.  Last week, the US Federal Reserve announced it would begin to taper its controversial quantitative easing (QE) stimulus program as the US economy is showing more signs of improvement.   Perhaps reflecting the growing strength of Venus as it slowed ahead of its retrograde station, investors generally welcomed the news as stocks rose across the board reflecting a renewed optimism about the future.  The Dow moved to new all-time highs above 16,200 while the Sensex again moved above 21,000.  Gold declined sharply, however, as the Fed's move suggested that the inflationary risk to its money printing program was diminishing.  Gold briefly traded below $1200 before closing just over that level. 

I had been fairly uncertain about the outcome last week given the mixed aspects in play.  However, I did note that the Venus retrograde station formed a somewhat tense t-square alignment in the New York Stock Exchange horoscope.  This may not have coincided with an immediate decline but it did suggest that the days following the Venus station on 21 December were more likely to be somewhat anxious. 

This week we will see what, if any, are the effects of Venus Rx on the financial markets.  On Monday, Mercury aligns with Venus so it is possible we could see higher prices for many assets including stocks and gold.  However, tension and caution may rise as the week progresses as Mars aspects Uranus and then Pluto. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fed considers QE taper again as Venus turns retrograde

(15 December 2013)  To taper or not to taper?  That is the question -- again!  With another Fed meeting slated for this week, the never-ending debate about whether the Fed will reduce its QE program is front and center once again.  With the employment data is showing more strength lately, will Bernanke and Co. finally begin to reduce their bond purchases which has been one of the main drivers of the current market rally?  Or is the Fed still concerned about a possible negative market reaction which would push interest rates higher as happened in May and June when Bernanke first floated the prospect of a taper?  Opinion seems split on whether the Fed will have the courage to finally start to wind down its stimulus program.  Recent weakness in the markets reflects the fact that some investors are reducing their holdings in anticipation of a taper.  A QE taper will reduce the liquidity and will likely cause stocks to fall.  How much stocks may decline is unknowable, although it may depend on the wording in Wednesday's 2 p.m. statement.  A more hawkish tone would suggest that the days of easy money are numbered and that the Fed is increasingly wary of the risks of an asset bubble.  Such a tone could hit stocks hard.  More dovish talk, however, and a steady-as-she-goes message would likely push stocks higher, or at least allow them to maintain their current lofty levels. 

What do the planets suggest?  Last week's planetary patterns did seem to fit market moves fairly well as markets generally rose in the early part of the week on the Sun-Jupiter-Saturn alignment.   I was also correct in anticipating some mid and late week turbulence as Mars aligned with Saturn -- two typically negative influences. 

This week will see a plausible enough bullish pattern on Monday as Mercury aligns with Jupiter and Saturn.  But that alignment will be out of range by the time of Wednesday's Fed statement.  Instead, Mars will form a minor angle with Rahu (North Lunar Node).  These are two normally negative energies which tend to correspond with a rise in caution and anxiety.  At the same time, the Sun will align with Venus so that could offset some of the Martian negativity.  Overall, this suggests something of a mixed and rather indecisive picture. 

But when overlaid against the horoscope of the NYSE, one would think that the chances for some kind of negative reaction are greater as Mars conjoins Rahu in this chart while Venus will come to square the Saturn-Neptune opposition in the natal chart.  The Venus station on December 21st at 5 degrees of sidereal Capricorn underlines the potential importance of this tense alignment with Saturn (5 Aries) and Neptune (6 Libra) in the NYSE chart.  It needn't manifest exactly on Wednesday, however, as Venus will be more or less stationary for about the next week. 

There are few certainties when it comes to the Fed and this week is no different.   I don't know for sure if the Fed will announce a reduction of its QE program.  Even if they do not actually taper, they could announce the likelihood of a taper in a subsequent meeting and toughen up their language.  This might be enough to create some jitters in the market.  The planets would tend to suggest more caution this week.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

(8 December 2013) The former South African President and anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela passed away Thursday at the age of 95.  Although he spent much of his adult life in prison, Mandela  emerged as the symbol of righteous defiance against South Africa's institutionalized racist regime.  After his release in 1990, Mandela became one of the world's most respected statesman, eventually winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and the presidency of his country in 1994. 

Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Umtata, South Africa.  His time of birth is unknown.  Some astrologers have attempted to rectify it but there remains a lot of uncertainty about Mandela's chart. For this reason, we must content ourselves with the approximate Chandra Lagna chart (Moon-based Ascendant) to see what sort of general clues can be gleaned about life.  To be sure, we likely won't be able to discern the precise celestial inspiration of the man's singular contribution to human freedom and justice.  And yet, even the Chandra Lagna chart provides hints about the basic direction of his path.

Mandela was probably born with the Moon in late Libra.  Libra Moons tend to be highly principled individuals who respond to abstract notions of justice (Libra =  the scales of justice). Libra Moons also tend to be quite diplomatic and persuasive and acknowledge the importance of social accommodation.  Despite of his commitment to revolutionary activity, Mandela was well known for his well-mannered disposition and his understanding for the need to build consensus with his colleagues.

Mandela's Moon is boosted to some extent by the 5th house (trine) aspect aspect from Jupiter.  This would tend to enhance his overall life outcome in terms of happiness and achievement.  The Moon is also modified by its dispositor Venus.  Venus is quite prominent in his chart because it is in the final degree of its own sign of Taurus. In addition, it is tightly conjunct Ketu, the South Lunar Node.  People with strong Ketus tend to be motivated by non-material concerns, as Ketu is considered by traditional Hindus as a spiritual planet which is commonly found in the charts of renunciates.  As a child from a royal family, Mandela could have had a successful career as a lawyer.  However, he found he could not tolerate the oppression and suffering of his fellow countrymen.  His renouncing of a relatively easy middle class life in favour of one dedicated to armed struggle against injustice is a very appropriate embodiment of the Ketu influence.  Since the Moon's dispositor Venus is conjunct Ketu in his horoscope, this non-material Ketu influence was actually quite strong.  He not only lived a spartan existence in prison, he continued to live simply even as president, and donated a large portion of his salary to charity.

The planets in the Moon's sign of Cancer also play an important role in shaping Mandela's character and life trajectory.   On the day of his birth, Mercury and Saturn were in a close conjunction in Cancer.  Mercury-Saturn people tend to be deep thinkers who are given to rationality and a need for order and mental discipline.  The fact that both of these planets are in the sign of the Moon (Cancer) reflected Mandela's great capacity for self-discipline.  This kind of self-control and discipline was necessary during his 27-year imprisonment for his advocation of the overthrow of apartheid. 

It is also worth noting that the Mercury-Saturn conjunction occurs in the 10th house of status and career.  The lord of the 10th house (Moon) is therefore placed in the 1st house and gives a hint about Mandela's ultimate role as one of the most famous leaders of the 20th century.  Such 1-10 combinations are commonly found in the charts of successful and high profile people.  The presence of the Sun and Neptune in the 10th house is further evidence of a horoscope of a successful and well-known person, especially one who is famous for ideals (Neptune) and statesmanship (Sun).  

One of the distinguishing features of Mandela's life was his lengthy imprisonment.  Interestingly, this can be seen fairly clearly through the condition of his Mars.  In Vedic astrology, Mars is the planet that symbolizes punishment.  It is also normally associated with the 12th house of isolation and separation.   As we can see, Mandela's Mars is situated in the 12th house.  While this is a fairly common placement among people who never spend a day in jail, Mandela's Mars is under considerable pressure in the chart.  Mars is in the sign of Virgo which is ruled by Mercury.  Mercury is harmed by its exact conjunction with Saturn, the planet of loss and suffering.  Moreover, Mars itself comes under a very close 3rd house (60 degree) aspect from Saturn.  In effect, that is a double dose of Saturn to that 12th house Mars of Mandela.  It's a very tough position and is one key reason why he spent such a long time in prison.

Nelson Mandela's chart is a reminder how even the horoscope for the day of birth can reflect some important themes in a person's life.

In more mundane matters, financial markets held fairly steady last week as the US jobs report showed significant improvement as the unemployment rate fell to 7%.  The Dow was down fractionally on the week closing at 16,020.  The Sensex fared better as investors cheered state election exit polls which suggested gains for the pro-business BJP.   Stocks generally reflected the transit picture as early week declines coincided with a Mars influence while the second half of the week fared better on the strength of Venus.  Friday's strength was somewhat unexpected, however, as I thought much of the gains would have come by Thursday. 

This week transits seem to point to some early week gains on the Sun-Jupiter-Saturn alignment.  The late week looks more problematic on the approaching Mars-Saturn aspect.  One wonders if the current rally in stocks will last all the way in the Venus retrograde station on December 21.  Once Venus changes direction, there may be changes in sentiment and expectations in the financial markets.  Significantly, Venus will change directions just three days after the Fed's next meeting when they may announce some changes to their QE policy.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Is Bitcoin the new gold for the internet age?

The virtual currency Bitcoin (symbol: BTC) is riding high on a lot buzz right now.  And with good reason.  On November 29th, the value of one Bitcoin ($1242) briefly exceeded the value of an ounce of gold which traded at $1240 on that day.  It was a potential watershed moment in the sudden explosive rise of Bitcoin which was launched back in January 2009.  At that time, one Bitcoin had a value of less than a tenth of a cent.  The explanation for the growing popularity of the currency is related to several factors -- the growth of online commerce, the recognition of the need for an alternative to government-issued fiat currencies which are prone to debasement over time, and a desire by some users for anonymous online transactions which no other currency or payment method currently satisfies.  But is Bitcoin just a newly-minted Ponzi scheme that is doomed to collapse or does Bitcoin represent a viable alternative to gold as a store of value?

From an astrological perspective, Bitcoin presents some intriguing challenges of interpretation.  While we have very precise recorded times for the different phases of its inception and launch, we do not have any idea of where these events took place.  True to its anonymous peer-to-peer nature, no one has claimed responsibility for the invention of Bitcoin.  Its putative creator is "Satoshi Nakamoto", but this is actually a pseudonym and does not refer to a particular person.  Bitcoin's libertarian creed makes it stand apart from any central authority and in order to prevent any control and regulation of this new currency, its creator(s) decided to remain out of public view.  Until the creator steps forward, we will never know who, or more importantly, where Bitcoin was launched. Several journalistic investigations have come up with various possible creators including programmers based in Dublin and Tokyo. 

In astrological terms, this creates a problem where its place of origin remains unknown as it is impossible to cast an accurate horoscope.  In lieu of any known place of birth for Bitcoin, I think it may worth using Silicon Valley, the focus on the internet world, as the de facto birthplace and point of reference for Bitcoin.  While it probably wasn't invented there, its resonance is perhaps more strongly felt there than anywhere else in the world.  In that sense, a Bitcoin chart based in San Jose, California would at least reflect its crucial importance for the burgeoning world of e-commerce and internet technology.   The San Jose-based Bitcoin chart is therefore a very useful relocated chart that may reveal both its nature as well as its trajectory in the past and the future. 

There are several possible candidates for the definitive Bitcoin inception and launch.  The first trade (in order to buy a pizza!), the first established online market place, the registering of the domain name as well as several others.  No doubt all of these "firsts" would reveal something interesting and useful about the reality of Bitcoin as a phenomenon.  From my admittedly cursory reading on the subject, my sense is that the creation of the so-called "Genesis block" of programming code for Bitcoin was the most important moment in the creation of this peer-to-peer currency.  As I understand it, a genesis block is the first "block chain" or code of a shared computer database necessary to conduct transactions.  This first functional written software code was the essence of Bitcoin and allowed users to trade.   This Bitcoin Genesis block was created on 3 January 2009 at 18:15:05 GMT (place unknown). 

The first thing a horoscope should do is reflect the nature of the entity that is birthed at that moment.  As we can see using our San Jose-based chart, Venus and Uranus were rising in the 1st house in Aquarius.  This is a very nice reflection of Bitcoin's essence.  Venus symbolizes money and value, Uranus symbolizes technology, speed and innovation, while Aquarius is the zodiacal embodiment of scientific advancement.  While the conjunction is rather wide, the Ascendant is straddled by Venus and Uranus and thus Bitcoin can be properly seen as a thing that governs money through science and technology.  Not bad! 

We can also note that Mercury, Jupiter and Rahu (North Node) are all conjoined in the 12th house in Capricorn.  This suggests a thing that typifies communication and computers (Mercury) with the application of knowledge (Jupiter) used in an unusual (Rahu) way that is outside of the mainstream or otherwise isolated (12th house).  Although it is making headlines now, Bitcoin is still controversial as many governments don't know what to do with it.  Illegal activities such as drug dealing and money laundering (Rahu/12th house) may be facilitated by Bitcoin which operates outside of any regulatory framework or tax agreement.

Now why has the value of Bitcoin exploded in the past several months?  I think there are a few reasons.  First, we can see that transiting Neptune has conjoined Venus in the 1st house.  Neptune-Venus conjunctions produce generally positive situations as Neptune imparts hopes and dreams to Venus' sense of value.  While it is often positive, the risk that it is a bubble is also greatly increased since Neptune is associated with illusions and fantasies.  These illusions are often only laid bare after Neptune has departed Venus and some other more malefic pattern is set up in the chart.  Since Neptune moves very slowly, the waning influence of Neptune on Venus will occur very gradually and may take anywhere from 6 to 18 months.

The second factor that stands out is transiting Jupiter.  Jupiter is the Great Benefic of course, and its entry into sidereal Gemini in June 2013 coincided with the latter stage of its parabolic increase from $250 to $1250.  As Jupiter transits Gemini, it aspects several key planets in the Bitcoin chart.  It is opposite the Sun-Mars conjunction in the 11th house (gains).  It is also trine (120 degrees/5 houses) the Ascendant, Venus and Uranus.  The retrograde station in November occurred almost exactly trine to Uranus at 26 Gemini. 

The immediate future for Bitcoin would seem to be fairly good as transiting Venus is due to station retrograde on 21 December exactly conjunct the natal Jupiter.  This conjunction of two benefic planets will likely equate to further increases in the price -- probably to new highs.  Even if Bitcoin declines somewhat after that hit, we can see that Venus will station direct in late January at 19 Sagittarius which is exactly conjunct the natal Sun.  This is another positive hit in the chart which suggests continued interest and possibly more upside. 

One possible source of concern is the approach of the conjunction of Pluto to the natal Sun.  Pluto often brings about power plays that feature some notion of control.  It is therefore more likely that Bitcoin will become subject to increased governmental scrutiny in early to mid-2014 as this Pluto conjunction takes root.  This could be a two-edged sword.  On one hand, any intervention and regulation would be seen as negative by some libertarian users.  However, it is also possible that some kind of intervention or oversight may actually serve to broaden the base of Bitcoin users and thereby enhance its value. 

Bitcoin may become more susceptible to declines later in 2014 and in 2015 when Saturn enters Scorpio.  In so doing, it will be in aspect with Jupiter and Mercury by 3rd house aspect and will also form a Western square aspect with Venus and the Ascendant.  Both of these aspects are likely negative and are likely to coincide with a bursting of the bubble.  The Bitcoin natal chart is still strong enough that this may only be the initial chapters in a longer Bitcoin story.  If and when the bubble bursts, there will be future increases and greater popularity down the road for the up and coming virtual currency. Who knows -- it may yet unseat gold as the more reliable store of value away from any government meddling.   The Bitcoin story is only just beginning.

As expected, financial markets generally rose last week as the Venus-Jupiter aspect midweek offset any early losses from the Mercury-Saturn influence.  The Dow edged higher to 16,064. Indian stocks slipped a bit as taper worries pushed the Sensex down to 20,217. 

As I forecast in this week's MVA subscriber newsletter, stocks would generally be weaker in the early going.  This has been borne out so far in US and European markets as the Dow has fallen below 16,000 in early Tuesday trading at the time of writing.  I would expect some kind of reversal higher to take place by midweek as the Moon conjoins Venus so there is a decent chance of a rebound.   On Friday, all eyes will be on the US November jobs report which could persuade the Fed to begin to taper QE.  If the jobs number is strong enough (+200K), then that could move markets.  Venus enters Capricorn ("methodical money") on Thursday and Friday so that is one bullish influence to consider. But Mercury is square Neptune (confusion) which is usually negative.   So the planets look somewhat equivocal here although I would think that if Thursday is clearly higher, then that would increase the odds for some selling on Friday. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gold tumbles to $1240 on Fed taper talk

(24 November 2013)  Gold is coming off another bad week as the traditional safe haven investment lost more than 3% closing near $1240.  Gold declined because of some bearish comments contained in the minutes of the previous meeting of the Federal Reserve.  The minutes suggested that the Fed is moving closer to reducing its QE stimulus program as the US economy gradually recovers.   As a rule, gold prices tend to rise when inflation worries are high and tend to fall during times when inflation is not an issue.  The possible end to the Fed's money printing would reduce inflation expectations, strengthen the Dollar and thereby depress the price of gold.

As I have noted on several previous occasions this year, the current planetary alignment is not favourable for gold.  If we use the horoscope of the first London gold price back in 1919, we can see some major afflictions.   Transiting Rahu (the North Lunar Node) is closely conjunct the Ascendant.   Rahu tends to be a negative influence and its conjunction here is one important reason why gold has failed to rebound off its summer lows.  Rahu has been stationary for several weeks on this point so that is another reason why gold has trended lower.  We can also see that Ketu (the South Lunar Node) is now closely aspecting the Mercury-Saturn conjunction at 11-12 Leo.   Ketu is also considered problematic so this is another potential source of weakness. 

We can see that Saturn is moving off the Ascendant now and away from its square aspect to Mars.  This is actually a positive development as Saturn tends to depress prices.  As I predicted earlier in the year, the June-July station of Saturn right on the Ascendant corresponded with a low as gold briefly fell below $1200.   But while Saturn has moved off, Rahu has basically taken its place on the Ascendant and so we see gold slipping back towards its previous low. 

More specifically, we can see that the conjunction of transiting Mars to the Sun-Venus conjunction at 25-27 Leo was likely pivotal in accounting for last week's sharp drop.  Wednesday's sell-off corresponded neatly with Mars moving into that exact spot in the sky.  In addition, the transiting Sun (4 Scorpio) was conjunct the natal Rahu which is also usually a bearish influence.  We can also see that the approach of Mercury to its conjunction with Saturn is activating the square aspect from Mars in the natal chart.  This was likely also another negative in the overall picture.

Interestingly, Jupiter station at 26 Gemini doesn't seem to be improving gold's fortunes here despite the fact that it forms lesser aspects to the Moon (26 Pisces) and the Sun-Venus conjunction in Leo.  In this instance, the presence of Rahu's malefic contact appears to outweigh any boost from Jupiter. 

I would expect gold may have to endure more tough times as long as this Rahu-Ketu combination remains so close to key points in the 1919 horoscope.  The presence of the Jupiter aspect may provide some kind of buffer and will prevent a sharp decline.  Gold will likely do better in January once the Rahu and Ketu aspects have moved away.

Financial markets were generally mixed last week.  US stocks edged higher later in the week with the Dow making a new all-time high at 16,064.  As expected, the early week was somewhat negative on the Saturn influence while the Moon-Venus aspect on Thursday helped to restore confidence.  Indian stocks moved modestly lower as tapering fears continued to depress sentiment. 

This week may see more of the same as the early week features a Mercury-Saturn conjunction.  This could coincide with a rise in caution.  However, the midweek Venus-Jupiter aspect probably means that buyers will return and stocks should again rebound. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Janet Yellen in Senate hearing; Venus and Pluto lay celestial groundwork

(17 November 2013)  Fed Chair nominee Janet Yellen appeared in confirmation hearings before the Senate banking committee last week.   Yellen performed well in the hearings and is widely expected to be confirmed as the next Chair of the Federal Reserve and replace Ben Bernanke, whose term ends on January 31.  Yellen's horoscope (August 13, 1946, time unknown) suggests she is generally a cautious and intelligent person.  Mercury (intellect) is closely conjunct Saturn (order, discipline) in the sign of Cancer.  This gives her an ability to think deeply and carefully about problems. 

Interestingly, her stellium of planets in Virgo (Venus, Mars, Neptune, Jupiter) are similar disposed by Mercury (which rules Virgo) and hence the Saturn influence is reinforced again.  While we don't know her Ascendant, we can see that her Moon in Aquarius further enhances this Saturn influence since  Aquarius is ruled by Saturn.  The importance of Saturn in her chart is bumped up another notch since the Moon and Saturn exchange signs -- Saturn is in the Moon's sign of Cancer while the Moon is in Saturn's sign.  The heavily Saturnian Yellen is therefore likely to be a very cautious and methodical problem solver. 

We may speculate on the possible manifestations of her close Sun-Ketu aspect.  Since Ketu tends to have a destabilizing effect, Sun-related matters could be made somewhat vulnerable.  The Sun typically represents the ego, so the Ketu influence can impart a natural humility that keeps any tendency towards excessive egoism in check.  In more afflicted charts, it can also suggest a weakness in the self and a lack of confidence.   Since we do not know all of Yellen's horoscope, these ideas should remain in the realm of speculation, however.

Yellen's Sun will come under pressure from the upcoming Saturn square aspect over the next six months.  Due to Saturn's retrograde station in early March, this Sun-Saturn aspect will be front and center in her chart until summer 2014.  Such Sun-Saturn aspects tend to correspond with periods of difficulty and a lack of respect as Saturn undermines the self.  President Obama's recently had Saturn aspect his Sun just as his Obamacare headaches began in October.  The problem for Yellen is that this Saturn aspect to her Sun will last a very long time.  This suggests that she will likely come under close scrutiny as her policies and abilities will be openly questioned.  The period of difficulty will likely begin in December as the Saturn aspect becomes close.  When she is (presumably) sworn-in on February 1st, the aspect will be just past exact but still close enough to suggest a cloud may hang over her as she assumes the job of Fed Chair.  

Just what this aspect may represent is an open question, however.  It could mean some past comments could come to light in an embarrassing way.  Or it could reflect worsening economic conditions that force her to change her approach.  Whatever it may be, this Saturn transit to her Sun means that she is unlikely to enjoy any kind of honeymoon period in her first weeks and months as the new Fed Chair.  She will likely be put on the defensive, perhaps before she even starts her job.  As difficult as this transit may be, I don't think it will be bad enough to prevent her from assuming the position.  Venus is very powerful on February 1st when she is due to be sworn in.  Venus ends it retrograde cycle and returns to direct motion the day before on January 31.  This slow velocity means that Venus will be extra strong.  The promotion of a woman to be the most important central banker in the world is a very apt event for such a Venus station.  Venus will also be in close conjunction with Pluto that day (only one degree away) -- and opposite benefic Jupiter no less.  Venus symbolizes women (and money) while Pluto represents power.  Given the huge influence of the Fed Chair over the economy of the whole world, Yellen's ascendancy to the Fed Chair will arguably make her the most powerful person on the planet.  Girl power, indeed! 

Stocks were mostly higher last week as markets largely cheered Yellen's pro-stimulus testimony.  US stocks rose more than 1% as the Dow closed at 15,961.  Indian stocks suffered losses, however, as investors anticipated a rate hike to combat rising inflation.  The Sensex slipped more than 1% to 20,399.   The mostly  bullish outcome was in keeping with expectations as the Jupiter and Venus aspects took stocks higher midweek.  As expected, the early week was more uncertain on the Mercury-Neptune influence.

This week looks more mixed for stocks as Mercury conjoins Rahu early in the week while Mars aligns with Jupiter.  These patterns are more likely to produce some declines.  However, we should also note that the Moon's approaching conjunction with Jupiter on Thursday may be enough to generate some offsetting gains later in the week.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Twitter launches IPO under auspicious stars; stock jumps 73% on first day

(9 November 2013)  The big news in the financial world this week was the launch of the Twitter IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.  Twitter (TWTR) became a publicly traded company on Thursday, November 7 at 10.49 a.m. when the first trade was completed at a price of $45.10.  This represented a stunning 70% increase over the IPO offering price of $26.  The Twitter launch had been the most anticipated IPO since Facebook went public last May.   Unlike Facebook, however, Twitter's massive stock offering went off without a hitch.  Despite the impressive gain on the first day, the stock actually slipped 7% in Friday's trade and closed at $42. What does the future hold for Twitter, both as a stock and as a company?  Let's take a look at the first trade chart. 

Ideally, the first trade chart should show two things: 1) it should reflect the basic nature of the company in question and 2) it should provide information on the probable trajectory of the company as evidenced through the ups and downs of its stock price.   As we can see from the Twitter chart, there are some very appropriate placements given Twitter's role as a computer-based communication company.  Mercury, the planet of communication, sits almost precisely on the Midheaven (i.e. the unequal 10th house cusp) at the highest point of the sky.  Mercury is in a close conjunction with Rahu, the North Lunar Node.  Rahu is a planet associated with research and innovation and the breaking of boundaries, especially those that connected with tradition and the status quo.  The Mercury-Rahu pairing is an excellent pairing for any kind of technology-based enterprise. 

But we can also see it is more widely conjunct with malefics Saturn and the Sun.  While nominally malefic in nature, both of these planets may actually be favourable for Mercury since both the Sun and Saturn tend to do well in the 11th house of gains as is the case here.  Moreover, Saturn is exalted in Libra and hence it should be seen as a steadying influence as it pertains to gains and revenue.  Saturn rules the 2nd house of income so its placement in the 11th house forms a very positive wealth-producing Dhana Yoga. 

The 11th house of the Twitter chart is made even more powerful by virtue of the placement of its ruler Venus (Libra) which is placed in the 1st house with Pluto and the Moon and opposite Jupiter.  Pluto actually rises closest to the Ascendant and may represent Twitter's massive size as a company as well as its ability to bend and reshape reality to its formidable will.  Twitter has engendered a transformation in social networking and social media as its 140 character model of communication is revolutionizing the way people think.  Pluto (power, the ability to coerce) is made more effective here because it is associated with benefic planets such as the Moon (the people), Venus (happiness, fun) and Jupiter (expansion, abundance).  Pluto is involved in a tight square aspect with Uranus, another planet associated with technology and innovation.  The placement of this Pluto-Uranus combination so close to the Ascendant suggests to me that Twitter will have a hugely revolutionizing effect on communications.  This has already occurred to some extent, of course, and the placement is an apt reflection of that fact.

Not only is the first trade chart a near-perfect symbolic embodiment of what Twitter does, but it seems to be a very auspicious chart also.  The 1st house contains benefics Moon and Venus and is aspected by the 1st lord Jupiter.   Jupiter also aspects all those planets in the 11th house of gains, most closely with the Sun (profile, stature) and Saturn (authority, organization).  It is a very powerful chart that seems to support the idea that Twitter will continue to grow.  To be sure, some questions remains about the possible negative impact of Saturn's 3rd house aspect on the Ascendant and the Moon.  Could Saturn's influence somehow reflect some potentially controlling or limiting aspect of the company's business?  Saturn is often symbolic of attempts to organize reality and with both the Moon and the Ascendant on the receiving end of this aspect, there may be problems along these lines such as privacy issues.  Also Ketu aspects the Ascendant quite closely (within one degree) so this could represent a certain amount of uncertainty or upset in the future.  The Ketu influence is often hard to pin down as it can manifest in many ways both positive and negative.  Like Rahu, Ketu is associated with change and adaptability.  Given Twitter's focus on quick and fast-paced communication, I tend to think the Ketu-Ascendant aspect may only reflect its nature as part of the quickly accelerating world of social media.  Whether or not the popularity of Twitter will suffer down the line is much less clear.  Nonetheless, Ketu's default setting is as a malefic should give investors some concern. 

The chart is initially running the Venus-Moon dasha period until early 2014.  The Moon is the dussthana 8th house lord in the first house and is aspected by Saturn and Ketu (both malefics) while conjunct Pluto (neutral, but possibly malefic) and Venus (benefic).  This suggests that Twitter may experience some growing pains in the next few months which could be reflected in some turbulence in the share price.  Although under pressure, this dasha period may not produce that much downside since the transits do not actually look that bad.   Some declines are perhaps more likely as transiting Rahu conjoins natal Mercury (9 Libra) in January.  This will also occur at approximately the same time that transiting Ketu (8 Aries) aspects Venus (8 Sagittarius).  

The subsequent Venus-Mars period from May 2014 until July 2015 also presents some caveats.  Mars is a malefic and hence it can be a little unreliable to deliver real growth in earnings and hence, in the share price.  Also, Mars is in Leo in the 9th house which seems weakened, especially since the Sun is fallen in Libra with Saturn.  It's a mixed picture which opens up the possibility for some difficulty for Twitter.  While it may continue to grow in popularity, I am not at all certain that the stock will rise in value during this period.  It's possible, but the outlook is unclear.  Therefore, investors should be cautious.  While the strong natal chart suggests that Twitter is probably a good long term investment, there is some possibility of volatility in the early going in 2014 and 2015.

Astrology isn't foolproof of course but first trade charts can provide some useful insights into future price patterns.  In my analysis of the Facebook IPO, I suggested that the stock could suffer a decline in the second half of 2012 and into 2013 during its difficult Ketu-Saturn dasha period.  This is not a bad summation of what actually happened as Facebook declined immediately after its launch in May 2012.  It hit bottom in September 2012 when it traded for $17 a share and experienced a partial recovery after that.  It only regained its original IPO price of $38 in August and has rallied higher since then topping out around $50 in recent weeks.  I had suggested that the stock was more likely to suffer during this Ketu-Saturn period from September 2012 until November 2013. So while the analysis was certainly not perfect, it still offered some insight about the likelihood of significant weakness in Facebook in the year following its launch.

Stocks were generally weaker last week as investors feared that the improving US economic data would mean that the Fed would be more likely to taper its stimulus program.  In the upside down world of today's finance, all that good news was actually bad news.  The Dow managed to trade a little higher on the week closing at 15,761 although gold and crude oil fell again.  Indian stocks also declined as emerging markets are more sensitive to the "hot money" created by the Fed's money printing.  The Sensex lost 2% closing at 20,666.  Although I thought last Wednesday's Sun-Saturn conjunction would likely cast some kind of pall over the markets, I thought we might have seen a little more downside than we did.

The planets this week look somewhat more favourable.  Bullish Jupiter aspects the Sun on Tuesday while Venus aligns with Pluto and Uranus on Wednesday and Thursday.  While these aspects don't necessarily translate into gains, they do load the cosmic dice for the bulls.   Mercury returns to direct motion on the weekend while in close aspect with Neptune.  This may create some confusion early in the week (Monday?) which may compel some investors to abandon their positions. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Neptune in focus: ACA fallout grows as Obama's integrity is questioned

(3 November 2013)  It was another difficult week for President Barack Obama as it became more evident that millions of Americans would be losing their health insurance plans under the new rules of the Affordable Care Act.  This inconvenient fact is at odds with numerous promises Obama made over the past three years when he insisted that no one would lose their existing plan.  While political allies continue to find ways to defend Obama, there is a growing sense in the middle of the political spectrum that something is seriously amiss in the brave new world of Obamacare that goes beyond the bungled website roll-out.  The main television networks are beginning to run stories about the widespread loss of plans, as well as consumer sticker shock as prices have unexpectedly risen significantly for many people.  Worse still, more commentators are wondering aloud if Obama may have lied to the public about the implications of the ACA for political expediency.  While a more forgiving perspective would suggest that it was a "miscommunication", the political fallout has been significant as Obama's approval ratings continue to fall back towards their all-time lows in the low 40s.

Obama's recent difficulties here are a reflection of the current planetary alignments.  As I have suggested in recent weeks, Obama was likely to experience more problems in his leadership once transiting Venus moved from the 11th house (Scorpio) of gains and entered his 12th house (Sagittarius) which represents losses and isolation.  (N.B. I primarily use whole sign houses so the 12th house begins at 0 Sagittarius and ends at 29 Sagittarius.  The 'spokes' in the wheel chart below represent the house cusps which as the most sensitive points in the house.)  Venus rules his 10th house (Libra) of status and career so we can see how a movement to the 12th house might create more problems for him.  What is important to note here, however, is that the effects of Venus entering the 12th house are likely intensified because of all the planets that are currently transiting Obama's 10th house.  Saturn, Rahu (North Lunar Node), Sun and Mercury are all in sidereal Libra now and therefore their ultimate effects have to take into account the condition of Venus, which is their sign dispositor.  As Venus weakens as it moves into the 12th, all these Libra transiting planets similarly weaken and are more likely to cause problems.

As noted previously, October was likely to cause some headaches for Obama since transiting Saturn (19 Libra) would be square his Sun (19 Cancer).  The Sun represents the self and self-confidence so hard Saturn aspects have a nasty way of undermining confidence and limiting our ability to move forward.  Perhaps one could make the argument that Saturn's aspect to the Sun might not be that damaging since it rules the 1st house and it is transiting the 10th house of status in Libra where it is exalted.  Very often such 1/10 combinations are quite helpful for boosting public profile.  However, this is less likely to be the case where one of the planets is a malefic (e.g. Saturn) and the aspect involved is a square or opposition. 

The other problem planet for Obama is Neptune.  Neptune is a key planet for Obama since it is placed in his 10th house of career and status and is square his Sun.  Neptune is associated with ideals and inspiration and in many ways is a very apt reflection of Obama's political appeal.  His original campaign for "Hope and Change" struck a chord with Americans who sought to move beyond the polarized partisanship of national politics.  Obama was seen as a transcendent figure whose mixed racial background was a way for the US to shake off its troubled racial past and move into the 21st century.   Interestingly, Neptune is also associated with illness and disease so it is perhaps not surprising that Obama's signature piece of legislation is the ACA.  A legacy of enacting the first national health insurance system is an appropriate manifestation of a president that has Neptune in the 10th house!

But like all planets, Neptune has a negative side that comes out when it is under pressure.  Neptune's other symbolism is linked to confusion and deceit.  Obama's Sun-Neptune square may help him inspire others through his oratorial skills and grand vision but he may sometimes have difficulty acting with clarity and commitment.  There can be moments of internal confusion about his goals and how to achieve them.  This reluctance to act decisively may have cost him in the Syrian "red line" affair and it could well be undermining his leadership in the implementation of the health care program.  It is impossible to say for certain whether he willfully deceived the American people here or whether he honestly thought that insurance prices would go down and that plans could be maintained.  But the Neptune influence may have made it easier for him to get confused or blind-sided by the details.  These details are now coming back to haunt him as Neptune is more prominent by transit. 

Current transits also put Neptune front and center.  Rahu (North Node) is conjunct his 10th house Neptune thus increasing the likelihood that confusion or distortion (Neptune) would occur in career (10th house) matters.  Rahu itself often imparts some measure of disruption or distortion in its transits, especially when it influences a planet that is malefic.  In my view, Neptune is more likely to show its malefic side whenever it is involved in a hard aspect from a transiting malefic planet like Rahu. 

But Neptune (8 Aquarius) is also undermining Obama through its square transit to his Moon (10 Taurus).  Due to Neptune's very slow motion, this has been in effect for much of 2013.  Neptune-Moon square aspects are often problematic as they will reduce emotional clarity and induce periods of confusion. There may be uncertainty about ways to approach a problem as emotions and sensations (Moon) are overwhelmed or made too variable by Neptune's influence.  It can mean that decisions are taken with excessive emotional input or where rational judgment is lacking.  Obviously, a transit that is so slow moving will not always have these effects but it is generally not a helpful influence on someone who must attempt to solve complex problems.  Moon-Neptune transits are better handled by someone whose career is in the artistic or nurturing fields where emotions play a greater role.  For a chief executive like Obama who must weigh pros and cons in a more logical manner, the effects will more often be negative.

With Neptune due to square Obama's Moon for most of 2014, Obama may not enjoy any significant relief from his current situation and low standing.  There will likely be continued questions about his competence and integrity as the "liar" label is likely to find favor among his right wing political opponents. We can see that his problems will likely multiply in February and March when Mercury stations retrograde square to his Moon just as Mars is approaching its own station in close square aspect to natal Saturn, his dasha lord.  Mars will also be in a close aspect with his natal Ketu at that time.  I would not be surprised to see his approval ratings fall into the 30s at this time.

Meanwhile, financial markets continued to whistle past the graveyard as last week the Federal Reserve gave no indication when it would begin to taper its experimental quantitative easing program.  Despite the Fed printing $85 Billion every month, it doesn't seem to be doing the broader economy much good, although Wall Street continues to prosper.  A subtle change in the wording of Bernanke's statement caused a modest sell-off after Wednesday's announcement, but stocks generally rallied on the week.  Oil and gold fell sharply, however.  I had expected a little more negativity perhaps given the stronger Saturn influence but thus far only commodities seem to be reflecting some of this tense planetary energy. 

Today's solar eclipse may ratchet up the tension as the Sun and Moon will come together in close conjunction with bearish Saturn.   The Sun will form an exact conjunction with Saturn on Wednesday and this is likely to weaken commodities further. Stocks could conceivably rise again but I suspect they are likely to succumb to the prevailing air of caution. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

GOP surrenders to end shutdown; Obamacare still under fire

(20 October 2013)  The US government shutdown came to an end last week as a deal was hammered out on the day before the debt ceiling deadline.  Without much real bargaining power, the GOP essentially surrendered on almost every point under discussion.  Obamacare was left intact and no serious cuts were made in the budget.  Both sides agreed to postpone further budgetary talks until early 2014.   It was clearly a political victory for President Obama who enjoyed a much-needed win after a string of setbacks in recent months.   

Last week, I wrote that the current transit picture in Obama's chart suggested the possibility of some last-minute complications in negotiations.  Alternatively, I thought that some of the tension in the President's chart might also manifest as more fallout from the Obamacare roll-out.  It was this latter scenario that turned out to fulfill the planetary promise as the White House and Health Secretary Kathleen Sibelius has come under increased criticism for the problem-filled roll-out of the long-awaited Affordable Care Act (ACA).   Obama's Sun is under aspect from Saturn and this can be understood as obstacles or setbacks to leadership. 

The win for Obama on the shutdown is perhaps better seen through the transit of Venus through his 11th house of gains in Scorpio.  Transiting Venus was fairly close to the 11th house cusp (24 Scorpio) at the time of the deal and this was likely enough to secure the total defeat of the hapless and divided Republicans.  It is worth noting that the favourable position of Venus in his chart also links back to Saturn since Saturn is placed in Libra, a sign that Venus rules.  In this way, the Saturn-Sun aspect likely lost some of its sting and ability to damage him.   Saturn is also the ruler of the benefic 1st house, so that also doesn't hurt.  Jupiter's (25 Gemini) very close aspect here to the equal 10th house cusp (24 Libra) is also likely quite helpful for most matters relating to career and status.

Obama may his troubles increase again after Venus leaves the 11th house and enters the 12th house (Sagittarius) on or around October 30th.  It will transit the 12th house through the month of November.  Suddenly, Venus as ruler of the 10th house of status will be in the shadows of the 12th house of loss.  This is likely to make that Saturn-to-Sun transit more difficult also.  Mercury's retrograde transit through Libra may also become more troublesome.  Mercury is the ruler of the 6th (health) and 9th (justice) houses  so there may be more problems in those areas.  An unexpected or politically awkward Supreme Court decision is therefore more possible in November.  We may also speculate that Obamacare may continue to receive even worse reviews in the media since the 6th ruler Mercury will be weakened by the 12th house transit of its dispositor, Venus.  The period around the end of the Mercury retrograde period on Nov 11th looks somewhat difficult for Obamacare.

The entry of Mars into Virgo in late November may also coincide with new setbacks for Obamacare since Mars will aspect several planets in the ACA horoscope through the month of December.  I suppose the key question here is: will any of this move beyond just criticism or will the January 15th deadline for enrollment be changed to allow for all the fixes necessary in the glitch-ridden ACA website.   I think some kind of formal acknowledgment of the problem is very possible, perhaps more likely after Venus turns retrograde on December 21st.   But that may be leaving it a bit too late.  If there is going to be an extension, one would realistically expect it to occur in November so as to allow people more time to sign up.  Perhaps that will occur around that Nov 11th pattern with Mercury.  While the problems are likely to continue or even get worse, I think Obama will be able to avoid much political damage while Jupiter is parked very auspiciously at 26 Gemini through much of November.  After it moves off this point in December and beyond, Obama may come under more pressure from the shortcomings to the ACA roll-out. 

Not surprisingly, financial markets cheered the resolution in Washington as US stocks gained more than 1% on the week.  Indian stocks fared somewhat better, boosted in part in the hope for an upcoming electoral win by the market-friendly BJP.   The gains were not altogether unexpected as I thought we would see some midweek gains on the Mercury and Venus aspects.  The early week declines were quite modest, however. 

This week looks less positive than last week as Mercury turns retrograde early on Monday while in close aspect with Jupiter.  The Mercury-Jupiter aspect has likely been positive for markets recently but the reversal of Mercury may well coincide with a reversal in sentiment.  After Saturday's lunar eclipse, we have also entered a twice-a-year eclipse period which can indicate increased volatility.  The solar eclipse on November 3rd is arguably a more important eclipse to watch since it occurs right in the middle of the Saturn-Rahu conjunction.   This is a fairly bearish set up in terms of astrological influences.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

US government shuts down as debt ceiling deadline looms

(6 October 2013) The shutdown showdown in Washington shows no signs of ending anytime soon.  American's ongoing budget fight entered its sixth day today as both Obama and Boehner refused to budge in their respective positions.  Boehner is demanding a one-year delay to the unpopular Obamacare program while the President is having none of it as the Affordable Care Act may well be the only lasting legacy of his presidency.   A complicating factor here is that the US debt ceiling deadline of 17 October is fast approaching.  If the two sides cannot also agree to raise the debt ceiling that allows for more government borrowing, then the US will default on its debt.  This possibility is widely seen as far more disruptive than the shutdown as global financial markets would likely react very badly to such a default. 

So what are the chances of a default?  Most commentators do not expect it is going to happen.  It is very much the 'nuclear option' that both sides will want to avoid since a default may well produce a market crash and another downgrade to the US credit rating.  It would also be a huge blow to US prestige in the world. 

In previous posts, I have discussed some of the problems in President Obama's chart including the ongoing affliction of his Sun (leadership, confidence) by Saturn (restrictions, obstacles).   This aspect will likely remain in effect for the rest of October and does not argue for a quick or successful resolution to this dispute.  While it is conceivable that the Saturn influence could represent something other than the current impasse, I tend to think that his leadership will continue to come under increased scrutiny in the weeks ahead.  

The USA horoscope is also under significant affliction at the moment.  From a medium term perspective, the ongoing Uranus-Pluto square aspect continues to be in close hard aspect with the natal Jupiter in this chart. Most fundamentally, Jupiter symbolizes law and philosophy so it is somewhat fitting that the government should be thrown into such disarray with these aspects.  Uranus (independence, instability) and Pluto (power, manipulation) are both showing their harder edges in their aspects as the very basis of the US political system is now coming into greater relief.  Government gridlock and internal divisions were built into the US system from its inception as a check against the temptation of tyranny.  Too often, however, this division of powers has prevented the government from moving forward on important and necessary policies.   If the 6.30 pm chart is correct, then the condition of Jupiter becomes even more important since it rules the entire chart which has Sagittarius rising.  This double-barreled affliction by Uranus and Pluto would then represent much more instability and disruption in the country as a whole. 

More specifically, there are a couple of fast-moving transits upcoming that suggest that tensions are more likely to increase rather than decrease in the days ahead.  First, transiting Mars will oppose Neptune next week (Oct 14-19).  Mars will therefore oppose the natal Moon in the USA chart.  This is a bad transit that heightens the likelihood of discord, especially with Neptune so close to a conjunction with the Moon.  Mars-Moon-Neptune combinations are often found in situations of deception and conflict.  In light of the current shutdown and impending default, this aspect would tend to suggest that a last-minute agreement before the October 17th default deadline is less likely.   If there is an agreement, it may have some conditions attached to it.  Maybe there will only be a postponement rather than a proper resolution. 

The other aspect to watch is the approaching Mercury retrograde station on October 21st.  On the face of it, this seems quite positive since it occurs in close aspect with Jupiter.  Mercury stations at 24 Libra while Jupiter sits on 25 Gemini in a near-exact 120 degree trine aspect.  But the problem here is that Mercury will be in a very tight 30 degree alignment with the natal Saturn (24 Virgo) in the USA chart.  While this is not an aspect in the proper sense, it is still a geometric alignment that may describe some state of tension or frustration in the country.  Such Mercury-Saturn aspects are common when things are not going according to plan and goals are not realized.  And since Saturn is placed in the 10th house government, this Mercury Rx station to Saturn could well mean problems, headaches and setbacks involving government.  Of course, Jupiter in the mix there, too, so I would be a bit surprised to see a outright breakdown and default.

What this astrological analysis suggests is that the conventional wisdom of a timely resolution to the shutdown and debt ceiling debate may be overly optimistic.  The presence of these two Mars and Mercury transits do not bode well for a typical resolution.  While the chart does not look bad enough to predict a full-blown default, there would seem to be some reason to expect some twists and turns in this story before the thing gets settled.   I would therefore expect financial markets to be on edge in the coming days as nervousness is more likely to increase. 

Thus far, financial markets are not overly worried.  US stocks only declined slightly last week as most investors expected cooler heads to prevail.   As expected, the midweek Sun-Saturn-Rahu alignment did coincide with the shutdown.   This brought some weakness to stocks but gold was more sharply affected since it tends to move in close relationship with the condition of the Sun.  Indian stocks ended higher on the week overall.  

This week could see some turbulence around the early week Mercury-Saturn conjunction.  However, the midweek Venus-Neptune and Sun-Jupiter alignments may improve sentiment.   Underneath it all, however, is the ongoing Uranus-Pluto square which is tightening in the coming days to a near exact angle.  This is a potential source of unease and disruption.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Obamacare under threat as government shutdown looms

(29 September 2013)  It was another bad week for President Obama as House Republicans voted for a one-year delay of Obamacare as part of its spending bill.  The delay of the unpopular health care plan has put the GOP on a collision course with the White House.  Obama will veto the bill to delay its launch and this will then result in a government shutdown as funds will not be available to provide basic government services. US government shutdowns are not that uncommon, however, and usually last only a few days.  Financial markets are actually more concerned with the threat posed by the debt ceiling debate as money is due to run out by October 17th.  If the debt ceiling cannot be raised, then the US government would default on its debt.  This is far more disruptive to financial markets than a shutdown.

To some extent, the current bad mood in Washington is the result of the ongoing Saturn-Rahu conjunction.  This has been in effect for much of September and is carrying over into October as it is activated by the transits of faster moving planets such as Mercury and the Sun.   As I have discussed in previous posts, this conjunction is afflicting Obama's natal Mars (frustration, confrontation) and is likely undermining his Sun (confidence, leadership) since the Saturn-Rahu conjunction sits atop his Neptune.  Neptune is in a close square aspect with his Sun (Sun-Neptune=weakness, indecision) and so this malefic activity on his Neptune has a clear channel of energy from which to flow to his Sun.  While Saturn is slowly moving away from Obama's Neptune, it will also tighten its square aspect to his Sun in October.  This aspect makes any quick or clear victory more unlikely as his leadership and popularity will continue to suffer.   As transiting Mars conjoins his Rahu and then squares his Moon (with the help of transiting Neptune (8 Aquarius), Obama will likely see more headaches and setbacks in October.

The ACA health care bill has its own chart and shows the current stresses fairly well.  Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010 at 11.56 a.m. in Washington.  The resulting natal chart is really quite afflicted although it is powerful also.  The Moon rises in Gemini but is involved in a very tense Grand Cross alignment as it is opposite Pluto, squared by Saturn and also in a 90 degree alignment with the Sun.  That Moon on the Ascendant is therefore quite afflicted and speaks directly to the unpopularity of Obamacare.  Even if it is eventually implemented, it seems likely to increase health premiums for many people even if coverage is more inclusive. Note that a debilitated Mars in Cancer sits in the 2nd house of wealth and assets and it is disposited by that very afflicted Moon. 

Its prominence in American public life is reflected by the fact that the Sun sits high in the chart in the 10th house conjunct Uranus (innovation, fame) and its Ascendant ruler Mercury is also in the 10th house (albeit fallen in Pisces) with Venus, which is exalted.  All four planets are opposed by Saturn, however, so that may be a key factor why most of the news and high public profile of Obamacare is critical and negative.   Saturn's pivotal aspects on both the Sun and Moon means that Obamacare is perhaps better described as infamous rather than famous.  Its difficult natal chart also suggests it may not be a positive legacy for the Obama presidency. 

As we would expect, the current transits to this chart are not good.  The Ascendant ruler Mercury is under pressure from the ongoing square aspect of Uranus and Pluto.  This is one reason why Obamacare is such a focus of attention and lightning rode of opposition.  The combined influence of Uranus and Pluto means that the roll-out will not be smooth sailing and that it will be basically unstable and tentative for the next year or so while these slow moving transits are still in proximity of that Mercury.  Even more problematic is the transit of Rahu to the Moon-Ascendant in the Obamacare chart.  This is still approaching its exact trine aspect so that is one reason to think that there will be still more birthing pains in the coming weeks.


But is this enough to translate into a one year delay?  The planets look equivocal on this question.  While the Rahu aspect to the Moon/Ascendant is likely quite difficult, one would have expected more affliction to the chart if there was going to be a formal delay.  Such a delay would be quite embarrassing to Obama and the Democrats and would keep hope alive for the GOP that repeal was still possible down the road.  The current dasha period in this chart is Rahu-Mercury.  Yes, Mercury isn't in the best shape, but it is also not strongly afflicted by transit at the moment.  So I am agnostic on the prospects for a delay.  The chart is under pressure at the moment, but it may only be the latest bump in a very bumpy road for Obamacare.  

I do think that Obamacare's future is uncertain, however.  The Rahu-Ketu dasha period begins in January 2014 so that should see more opposition and problems emerge with the program.   The transits also offer support to the notion that there will be more opposition to the program during this time.  The Saturn station at 10 Scorpio in March 2015 will line up on the equal 6th house of the natal chart and suggests a time of extreme stress.  Given that this will shortly follow the 2014 mid-term elections in November, it suggests that there may be a renewed movement to oppose and repeal Obamacare at that time. 

All this uncertainty was bad news for stocks as financial markets anticipated some short term turbulence from the possibility of a government shutdown and a disruptive debt ceiling debate.  US stocks lost 1% while Indian stocks slumped 3%.  The  negative outcome was not surprising given the ongoing Mars-Venus aspect through much of the week.  Thursday's more bullish Venus-Jupiter aspect did generate some optimism but it was fairly muted. 

There are two key patterns to watch this week.  On Wednesday and Thursday, the Sun will form a close alignment with Saturn, Uranus and Pluto.  This looks quite potent and could move markets significantly in either direction.  Saturn's presence here means that there is perhaps more downside risk.  In light of the shutdown showdown in DC, this pattern would seem to suggest more difficulties for government as Sun (government) is in alignment with Saturn (blockage), Uranus (sudden developments) and Pluto (power, coercion).   The other thing to watch is the entry of Venus into sidereal Scorpio on Wednesday.  Stocks have generally done well during the transit of Venus through favourable  Libra which began on September 6th.  But Scorpio is more hostile territory for Venus, so this could amount to a weakening of the planet of money.   Venus transits Scorpio from October 2 until October 30.  While probably not especially positive, this transit is not necessarily negative in itself.  The larger point here is that once it leaves Libra, it may expose the greater negative potential of the Saturn-Rahu conjunction.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bernanke (and Rahu) surprise markets: Is the QE party over?

(22 September 2013)  Ben Bernanke surprised markets last week as the Fed postponed its plans to taper QE bond purchases until economic conditions improved.   While US stocks moved to new all-time highs on Wednesday's announcement, many investors and analysts voiced their irritation and disapproval at this sudden about-face after the Fed had been hinting at tapering since May.  The Fed's credibility took a beating with this move as more market players spoke out against its actions and its communications.  The fact that most of the gains were lost by Friday is further evidence that the market may be growing wearing of all this Fed money printing as it does not appear to have much effect in the real economy.

We can see the potential damage of Wednesday's non-taper by referring to Bernanke's swearing-in chart when he first took over the reins of Fed Chair on February 1 2006 at 9 a.m.   I interpret this chart as representing conditions and events of Bernanke's tenure at the Fed.  Close aspects involving malefic planets like Saturn will likely coincide with times of economic stress when the Fed is forced to react to worsening conditions, both in the economy and in the financial markets.  Favorable aspects with planets like Jupiter and Venus may be seen as coinciding with desirable conditions and events such as improving economic data and rising stock markets.  The stated aim of quantitative easing is to lower interest rates in order to spur economic activity and to push the stock market higher to enhance "the wealth effect".  Lately, it's only effect may be that it is enriching the top layer of society.

There were two key patterns in play last week.  First, transiting Mars (19 Cancer) was exactly opposite the natal Sun (18 Capricorn), Mercury (22 Capricorn) and Neptune (23 Capricorn).   Mars is a planet associated with sudden events marked by frustration and annoyance especially when in hard aspect (90, 180) as is the case here.  This Mars influence therefore accounts for both the surprising nature of the Fed move as well as the mostly negative to it.

The other pattern to take note of is the triple conjunction I have been mentioning between Venus, Saturn and Rahu (NN) at 14 Libra.   This was exact on the day that Bernanke threw his curve ball into the markets.  While there are no full strength Vedic aspects here, there is a very close 135 degree aspect between Venus-Saturn-Rahu and the Moon (0 Pisces).  This is just one degree from exact and therefore may confer some strength.  Any affliction to the Moon is going to be noteworthy, and since there are three planets involved here it may be quite consequential down the road.  At the same time, it is important to note that the 135 aspect is a minor aspect and therefore packs less of a punch that other aspects. 

So how important is this Moon affliction?  Could it mean that the markets are finally fed up with the Fed and its endless loose money policy?  Certainly, there are more voices that are openly questioning the wisdom of QE now.  Some commentators talk about how the Fed may be trapped now by the market's reliance on money printing.  When the Fed indicated it was going to taper bond purchases in May, interest rates started to rise as the market anticipated the loss of an important buyer.  But the Fed doesn't want rates to rise as they will choke off the housing recovery and push the economy back into recession.  Rates can only stay relatively low if the Fed continually pumps money into the system and increases its own debt.  As many investors know, this is a recipe for inflation down the road.  What's worse is that yields on Treasury bonds are still higher than they were a year ago thus indicating that the Fed may no longer be able to dictate interest rates.  Bernanke is on the verge of losing control of the bond market.  This is a more perilous situation because it means that rates will rise no matter how many bonds the Fed buys. That means that the US debt will suddenly become more expensive to service and will force more government cuts and higher taxes.  Higher inflation is the other probable consequence in this scenario. 

While I thought that the triple conjunction could be bearish for stocks, I was ultimately uncertain of the outcome with this pattern given the strength of Venus in Libra.  As it turned out, stocks rose across the board.  As expected, Rahu made its presence felt as developments were quite surprising and even disruptive as Bernanke postponed the taper.  His Indian counterpart, RBI chief Raghuram Rajan also surprised markets albeit by tightening as he raised the repo rate on Friday.  The negative reaction was not enough to offset the post-Fed rally however.   Gold also rallied strongly after the Fed on renewed inflation fears.

This week will be interesting as we can monitor the effects of the separation of Venus from its conjunction.  Markets have generally risen as Venus approached its conjunction with Saturn and Rahu.  It may be another story once Venus separates.  To be sure, Venus will still be quite strong while it remains in Libra until 2 October so this could keep sentiment mostly positive.  But it is worth noting that market reversals do sometimes happen around tight clusters of planets as we had last week. 

Venus is subject to two aspect influences this week, one negative and one positive.  Mars aspects Venus for much of the week and thus we should expect some negativity to manifest at various points in the week.  The aspect is exact on Sunday the 29th.  However, Jupiter forms an exact aspect with Venus on Thursday so that is likely to translate into some favorable outcomes as well.   The bottom line here is that the planets do not provide any clear hints for direction this week.  But the gradual weakening of Venus is something that should be watched very carefully here, especially as we move into October.  With the prospect of a US government shutdown looming, stocks may face a tougher road.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Putin emerges the winner in face-off with Obama and US

(15 September 2013)  Russia's President Vladimir Putin seems to be the big winner in the recent war of words over Syria's chemical weapons.  The agreement between the US and Russia to remove all of Syria's chemical weapons by next year emerged after a series of missteps by the US administration.  President Obama's lack of political support for a military strike ultimately paved the way for the agreement which allowed the beleaguered Obama to save face.  Seeing the unworkable position Obama was in, Putin seized the moment by brokering the deal with Syria's strongman Bashar al-Assad.

The disarmament deal came as a surprise as I thought the odds were quite high for a military strike.  Obama's horoscope looked heavily afflicted for September.  Saturn in Libra is undermining his Cancer Sun (leadership, confidence) and thus he was more likely to fare poorly in this affair. I had thought the current transits to Obama's 8th house Mars in the last degree of Leo would be more likely to bring about military action.  However, it turned out that Obama's Mars was not very inclined to violence.  All those minor aspects to his Mars may have simply have reflected the awkwardness of his situation and the humiliation he has suffered.  The 8th house is symbolically associated with setbacks and embarrassments.

By contrast, Putin's horoscope appears to be more much sounder footing.  Putin's time of birth is uncertain but I have used the popular 9.30 a.m. time here.  The chart derives a lot of its strength through the planet Venus.  Venus is in its own sign of Libra and is conjunct benefic Mercury which is situated in the first degree of Libra and very auspiciously conjunct the star Spica (Chitra).  Both Venus and Mercury are also aspected by Jupiter in Aries thus providing them with more strength.   But all roads lead back to Venus.  Putin's Moon is exalted in Taurus which is ruled by Venus.  Putin's Sun is conjunct Saturn in Virgo.  This may give him that need for control but since Sun-Saturn is closely aspected by Rahu the need to control may be somewhat excessive.   This is pretty much what one would expect from a former head of the KGB.  But the other thing to note is that the Sun-Saturn is in Virgo which is ruled by Mercury.  That again takes us back to Mercury's sign of Libra (and Spica!) and its powerful ruler, Venus.  We may not know Putin's ascendant or house placements for sure, but even the Chandra Lagna chart looks quite good.


At this time, transiting Jupiter (22 Gemini) is aspecting Venus quite closely.  Saturn and Rahu are in proximity to Venus now.  I think it is likely a positive thing that they did not conjoin exactly on his Venus thus providing some breathing room.  Venus receives the square aspect from Mars this week, perhaps foreshadowing some anger or disputes from an adversary such as Obama.  The other question is what happens when Saturn exactly conjoins Venus in October.  I think it is likely that Putin will come under increased scrutiny at that time.  At the moment, Putin's natal Venus is being partially supported by the fact that transiting Venus is also in Libra.  Once transiting Venus enters Scorpio on 2 October, his natal Venus may become more vulnerable. It will be less likely to withstand the impact of the conjunction with Saturn without harm.  It remains to be seen if this Saturn-Venus conjunction will impact the Syria situation, however. 

Markets generally applauded the negotiated settlement as US and Indian stocks added to their recent gains.  Gold and oil suffered significant declines, however, as the risk premiums came off as the military threat subsided.  I thought we might have seen more damage to stocks in the early week on the Mars-Saturn aspect but the underlying strength of Venus in Libra may have been sufficient to reverse the polarity of those malefic planetary influences.

All eyes are on the Fed this week as it appears as if Ben Bernanke will announce the beginning of the QE taper.  The Fed is expected to reduce the amount of bonds it is buying on Wednesday.  This could mark the beginning of the end of the controversial quantitative easing program which was aimed at stimulating the economy.  Given the modest growth rates in the US these days and raging inflation across most of the developing world, it is unclear how effective it has been.  Interestingly, the Fed decision this week occurs just as Venus (money) is conjunct Saturn (restraint) and Rahu (breaking boundaries).  The prominence of Saturn here suggests that tapering is more likely. 

But Rahu's presence here is a bit of wild card and opens the door to a possible surprise by Bernanke.  When Rahu (North Lunar Node) is involved, we are often faced with situations of change and disruption.  At very least, it would seem an appropriate pattern for the Fed to reverse its loose money policy.  But it is also possible that Bernanke could surprise the markets in some way.  And as noted last week, the Venus-Saturn-Rahu conjunction this week occurs in a significant spot in the NYSE horoscope so that could translate into a significant market reaction to his announcement. 

India's new RBI governor Raghuram Rajan is due to make his first policy announcement on Friday.  The tight conjunction of Saturn and Rahu would similarly appear to favour an anti-inflation bias which aims to protect the Rupee.  Depending on the exact nature of what is announced, this seems like it could create problems for stock market investors.