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.