Monday, December 15, 2014

Stocks under pressure following oil price crash: 2008 revisited?

(15 December 2014)  Financial markets suffered a sharp decline last week as investors began to weigh the implications of the collapse of oil prices and the possibility of a wider global recession.  The Dow lost more than 3% closing at 17,280 while the Indian Sensex lost almost 4% and finished the week at 27,350.  Most other global markets also declined, with major oil producers like Russia and Canada suffering the biggest hits. 

While cheaper oil may be good news for consumers who have more money to spend on other things, the financial fallout could be more negative as higher cost US producers may go bankrupt.  Large institutional players who may have invested in the energy sector will feel these losses.  This increases the risk of contagion spreading throughout other markets as leveraged investments go bust.  As prices of these oil investments fall, margin calls go out and this forces liquidation of other assets in order to cover for the initial loss.  This creates a chain reaction of selling as the bubble bursts.  This is essentially what happened during the financial meltdown in 2008 and there is some danger here that history could be repeating itself.   Oil prices peaked in the summer of 2008 and then plunged before the stock market crash.  Once the price collapse started, oil speculators were forced sell to cover their losses and this created a contagion effect which spilled over into the stock market.

Interestingly, last week's sell-off correlated very closely with Jupiter turning retrograde (Rx) on Monday December 8th.  Jupiter turns retrograde once a year and begins a four-month backward journey through the night sky.  As the planet most associated with positive sentiment and expansion, the reversal of Jupiter's direction is sometimes connected with market reversals and weakness as the planetary outlet for optimism undergoes a shift in its inherent qualities. 

In previous posts, I had suggested that the chances for decline around this Jupiter Rx phenomenon were greater, especially in the context of this vastly overvalued stock market.  The chart above shows how some previous Jupiter retrograde stations may have correlated with market moves.  To be sure, the correlation is not overly strong or long term in its effects.  The 2013 Jupiter Rx station only manifested as a brief two-week pause in the rally before stocks again climbed higher.  The 2012 Jupiter Rx station seemed to be more closely connected with an interim high after which stocks fell for more than a month. 

So there is some evidence to suggest that the current 2014 Jupiter retrograde station will also produce some kind of correction in most markets although it is unclear how long it could last.  As always, we have to consider other factors that enter into the overall picture.  I discuss these other factors in my weekly financial newsletter.

The planets this week look most potent towards the end of the week when Venus will closely align with Mars, Uranus and Pluto.  This alignment is closest next weekend but we could see some effects on Friday.  Mars is usually bearish but the presence of Venus in the mix means that the outcome is more open-ended.  A larger move is perhaps more likely as an event outcome.   The early week seems more negative (and Asia has opened in the red at the time of writing) as Mercury aligns with Saturn.  The Sun's entry into sidereal Sagittarius on Tuesday could bring a temporary calm to the stock market, however.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Protests against police spread in the US after Garner decision

(8 December 2014)  The nationwide protests over the death of Eric Garner has added yet another chapter in America's historical legacy of slavery, racial tension and civil strife.  Garner died from a chokehold administered by a New York police officer in August while being arrested for selling individual cigarettes on the street.  Despite the presence of video evidence of the police actions during the arrest, the officer was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing by a Grand Jury.  This has sparked protests in New York and across the country as African-Americans voice their anger and frustration over what they feel as unfair treatment by the police and the justice system.   The protests come just a week after rioting in Ferguson, Missouri following a similar non-indictment of a white cop who had killed another unarmed black man.

These kinds of racially-based riots and protests have been a frequent occurrence in the US for over a century.  As an astrologer, I am curious to know if the current race-based unrest can somehow be a reflection of planetary placements in the horoscope of the USA.  There is a short list of possible planetary patterns that could fit the bill.  Violence often implicates Mars in some way, so we could see some affliction there involving malefics.  While the Ferguson protests were violent, we should note they quite small by historical standards compared with the LA riots in 1992 or the riots in 1968.  The Moon represents the people as a whole therefore I would think it more likely that the natal Moon of the USA is similarly under pressure or disturbed by transiting planets such as Saturn, Rahu or Ketu. Any kind of affliction of the Moon would explain a state of upset or unrest which could reflect the current popular mood.  Blacks and whites alike -- especially among the younger people -- are calling for fundamental changes to the justice system. 

The chart of the current transits reveals that the Moon (7 Aquarius) is indeed under some pressure from an approaching Saturn square.   This is not the full-strength 270-degree square Saturn aspect but it is still exerting some influence given how close it is to 90 degrees -- just three degrees short now.  Saturn's influence on the Moon (people) is one source for the sense of unhappiness and frustration over the status quo.  Transiting Neptune (10 Aquarius) is also in close proximity to the Moon but I don't think it's relevant for these protests as Neptune moves only two degrees per year and has been essentially conjunct the Moon since 2012. 

Significantly, natal Mars (0 Gemini) suffers no obvious major transit afflictions.  Transiting Venus was opposite Mars during the protests so that is an appropriate signature for the temporary rise in hostilities as people march in the streets.  Venus-Mars transits in national charts often mark times of enmity as the process of social contact and association (Venus) takes on a more pointed and aggressive manner (Mars).  But this Venus transit only lasts a few days so that is a less important factor in situating these protests in their historical context.  It is one factor that suggests the protests may not last very long. 

The other transit that stands out in this chart is the conjunction of Rahu (North Lunar Node) and Saturn.  Rahu has stationed on the 24th degree of Virgo for many weeks now.  Previously, I wondered if this long transit was significant for explaining the failure of the Democrats to hold onto the Senate since Saturn was placed in the 10th house of status and governing institutions.  Saturn's affliction by Rahu would therefore suggest complaints with the status quo and government which would be bad news for Obama and the Dems.  Indeed, the Democrats too a beating in the midterms as this Rahu influence played out as expected.  This may also be a factor in these current protests as another pillar of government, the justice system, comes under increased scrutiny.

Another possible interpretation of this ongoing Rahu-Saturn conjunction is that it reflects frustration within the black community itself.  Traditionally, Saturn is the planet that represents the poor and marginalized in society.  This transit by Rahu may therefore be seen in terms of creating unrest and unease within that poorer and disenfranchised segment of American society.  In this sense, the Rahu-Saturn conjunction has two different dimensions.  First, through Saturn's placement in the 10th house of government and second, as Saturn's main significations of the poor and oppressed.  Both of these areas would therefore likely be activated through this long and difficult conjunction with a stationary Rahu.  Rahu (27 Virgo) was only three degrees away from Saturn (24 Virgo) at the time of the first Ferguson riot in August and may well have reflected the sense of injustice and anger that boiled over at the time of the death of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson.

As transiting Rahu gradually moves away from Saturn in the coming weeks, we are more likely to see a return to normal.  That said, Saturn will tighten its alignment with the Moon so some sense of frustration, unease, and even disappointment with US ideals of justice may continue.  I would also note that Mars will again be activated in mid-December.  Both Mercury and the Sun will oppose the natal Mars at this time while transiting Mars will move into a conjunction with natal Ketu (15 Capricorn) around the same time.   Some short-lived violent outbursts are therefore more likely in mid-December.

It is worth comparing the current chart with that of previous racially-motivated riots.  In recent history, the Rodney King LA riots in 1992 stand out as the most culturally significant.  The transit chart shows a familiar pattern.  The nodes are in close aspect with the Moon (and the Ascendant).  Transiting Ketu (8 Sagittarius) formed a very close 120 degree trine aspect with the Moon during these riots.  This is a typical pattern that reflect the population in a state of agitation and unrest. 

Interestingly, Saturn is in a close 120 degree alignment with its natal position.  While this is not a conventional Saturn aspect, it is nonetheless an alignment that highlights the prominence of Saturn at that time.  In my books, it still counts as a Saturn influence.  As I suggested, Saturn can be seen as a planet of the poor and marginalized, which in the US is disproportionately comprised of African-Americans. Transiting Mars (1 Pisces) is also highlighted here as it closely squares natal Mars (0 Gemini).  This is the kind of necessary triggering transit one would expect from a major riot which produced the greatest riot-related property loss in US history.

There was a large number of race riots in the 1960s but the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 stand out as particularly violent and deeply felt by the nation.  Washington, DC was the focal point as the rioting came within two blocks of the White House and it was only a huge military deployment that prevented a larger tragedy. 

Here again, we see natal Saturn under major pressure through its conjunction with transiting Ketu (South Node) and a Saturn opposition. The assassination may well have been another instance where both dimensions of Saturn in the USA chart were activated.  The affliction to its 10th house placement called into question institutional legitimacy while the affliction to Saturn itself was the expression of frustration of the poor, black underclass whose interests Dr. King had championed.  

Mars again may have acted as the fast-moving trigger planet as it squared Rahu in the 8th house.   On a broader note, we can suggest the 1960s in America were more violent generally due to the ongoing square transits of Uranus and Pluto to the natal Mars.   These transits would have lasted for most of the decade and may have lowered the transit threshold needed from other planets to spark physical manifestations of other afflictions such as Saturn or the nodes.  If slow-moving outer planets do most of the heavy lifting, then there is less need for the faster moving planets to step in to fill the bill.

Financial Markets Update

Meanwhile, stocks were mixed last week as the US jobs report was stronger than expected and gave investors another reason to buy.  The Dow pushed to a new record at 17,958 while the Indian Sensex pulled back a bit to 28,458 as the RBI kept interest rates unchanged.  As expected, the early week Mars-Saturn alignment correlated with some (modest) declines while the Venus-Jupiter aspect on Wednesday and Thursday saw stocks recover. 

This week again features some problematic short term aspects in the first half of the week as the Sun and Mercury conjoin while in close aspect with Ketu (South Lunar Node).  At the same time, Jupiter finally turns retrograde on Monday in New York.  This may not have any immediate effects but it is one of those planetary stations that can prove to be significant in the longer term scheme of things.  The late week Mercury-Jupiter aspect offers the prospect for more gains. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Oil prices plunge as OPEC maintains production levels

(30 November 2014)  Crude oil prices plunged last week after OPEC decided not to cut production in an effort to reduce global supply.  WTI crude oil declined 13% on Friday and finished near $66 a barrel.  Saudi-led OPEC has now entered a price war with the US and other non-traditional oil producers in an attempt to push higher cost shale oil out of the marketplace in order to return OPEC to its previously dominant position.   With the advent of shale oil, the US is now poised to become the world's leading producer of oil once again.

This collapse of oil prices culminates a six-month decline that began back in June when crude was still well above $100.  Unfortunately, there is no easy or simple astrological explanation for Friday's crash although we can make a few general observations. 

Saturn entered Scorpio on November 1st and thereby may have put added pressure on oil.  The logic is this: since Scorpio is a water sign and Saturn is generally negative, liquids such as oil may be more apt to suffer in some way.  As an added burden, we can see that Mars had entered Capricorn two days before the oil crash.   Capricorn is a sign ruled by Saturn so Mars' sudden and problematic energy (it is a malefic, after all) would be funneled to Saturn through its sign ownership.   This would therefore make Saturn's occupancy of water Scorpio even more damaging for liquids such as oil.

We may also note the difficult 45 degree alignment between Saturn and Pluto and the 135 degree alignment with Uranus which would likely depress oil prices, although that is not specific to Friday's patterns but rather to the late November period in general.  Saturn is the traditional planetary significator for oil since it rules minerals and other things taken from the ground.  Therefore, these kinds of afflictions involving Pluto and Uranus would be more likely to push prices lower during the time of the closest alignment of angles which were multiples of 15 degrees.

The horoscope of the crude oil futures (30 March 1983 9.30 a.m. EST) offers a few more clues.  The chart shows that transiting Saturn (3 Scorpio) is only just past the exact 8th house aspect (210 degrees) from malefic Mars (2 Aries).  This was exact in the previous week but it is close enough still to partially link it to this sudden decline.  Mars (0 Capricorn) is just one degree past the equal 8th house cusp at 29 Sagittarius.  To put it simply: Mars is a bad planet and the 8th is a bad house.  Mars is probably the most appropriate planetary energy for accounting for a shocking decline of this type.  These are additional pieces of evidence that does fit with the larger decline we have seen in November in addition to Friday's market reaction to the OPEC decision.  

On the other hand, Jupiter is still close to stationing just one degree away from the equal 3rd house cusp so one would think some upside is still possible in the near term.  Full disclosure: I did not predict Friday's decline in my newsletter.  While I did correctly forecast lower prices through much of November, I thought that crude would begin to rebound last week.  Clearly, that was incorrect although we may yet see a rebound here, albeit from a much lower level.  One would think that as Saturn moves away from the Mars aspect and Jupiter approaches its station on December 8, oil prices should recover somewhat. 

Financial Markets Update

Stocks generally moved higher last week despite the crude oil decline as inflation expectations diminished.  In the US, the Dow finished slightly higher at 17,828 while the Indian Sensex closed at another all-time high of 28,693.  The ongoing rally is not hugely surprising given the approach of the Jupiter station in early December.  Jupiter is more powerful when it is stationary in the sky and a powerful Jupiter usually indicates a time of optimism and rising stock prices.

This week looks a bit mixed due to the Mars-Saturn alignment early in the week.  Some negativity is more likely from these two planets.  But Venus then aligns with Jupiter by midweek so one would think that augurs fairly well for stocks. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Stocks hit new record highs on ECB easing

(23 November 2014)  Global stock markets marched higher last week as the European Central Bank announced it was expanding its program to buy asset-backed securities.  Taking a page from the Fed's quantitative easing playbook, the program is designed to boost growth (and inflation) in Europe as that continent struggles to avoid a triple-dip recession.  In New York, the Dow gained 1% on the week closing at a new all-time record high of 17,810.  Not surprisingly, the German DAX soared more than 5% on the ECB action although it remains below its all-time highs.  India's Sensex also gained on the week rising 1% to 28,334 which was also another all-time high.

In previous posts, I suggested that risk was rising in November due to the exit of Venus and Saturn from the sign of Libra.  Both of these planets tend to do well in Libra and hence they could seen as planetary indicators for positive market sentiment.  Saturn exited Libra and entered Scorpio on 1 November while Venus followed close behind on 13 November.  And yet most markets around the world have continued to rise despite this apparently more negative planetary environment.  Why?

The short answer is that collective market sentiment is based on the placement and condition of all nine planets of the solar system -- and probably many more yet undiscovered.  I have noted that Jupiter's situation is quite positive here as it transits through its sign of exaltation in sidereal Cancer.  Jupiter is the planet of optimism and its transit through this sign should be seen as a plus for markets.  Whether or not this positive factor will be decisive in determining market direction is a more difficult question.  To be sure, market values change as the conditions of the planets change.  We saw a perfect example of this when Venus transited through sidereal Virgo in late September and early October.  Virgo is known as the sign where Venus is debilitated and hence this would tend to be bad for sentiment.  Stocks indeed declined for that four-week period and then rebounded very strongly afterwards as Venus entered Libra -- a much more friendly environment. 

The problem of financial astrology is that weighing the relative importance of all the planets is only one part of the equation.  Another important factor is understanding how the current placement of the planets interact with the relevant horoscopes of the major stock exchanges of the world.  I have previously mentioned that the upcoming Jupiter station on December 8 could be significant for a couple of reasons.  First, Jupiter was changing its direction from forwards to backwards and these planetary stations can coincide with market movements.  But the Jupiter station occurs at 28 Cancer which forms an exact 120-degree angle with the Moon of the NYSE horoscope.  This is quite a positive alignment and is obviously one reason why US markets have continued to rise.  But the question then becomes what happens after the 8th when Jupiter begins to retreat from that position?

Interestingly, the horoscope of the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) also puts this upcoming Jupiter station into focus.  The chart has a rising degree (Ascendant) of 29 Scorpio.  Thus, the Jupiter station at 28 Cancer is just one degree from a very supportive 120-degree trine aspect.  We can also see that the Jupiter station also aligns with natal Mercury (28 Virgo), natal Jupiter (28 Libra), and natal Neptune (27 Sagittarius) and Uranus (29 Sagittarius).  While other factors are involved here, the ongoing Jupiter aspect to this Ascendant and the other planets is one reason why the Indian market has extended its post-election rally to new all-time highs.  But again we have to ask: what happens after Dec 8 and Jupiter starts to back away from this exact aspect with the Ascendant? 

On the face of it, we should think that the Jupiter effect on this chart will begin to diminish.   Jupiter will remain in close alignment for another week or two after its station but it will slowly separate from it. Without this positive factor, one would think that the Indian market will be less likely to rise and indeed could be more susceptible to declines.  This is likely also true for US and other markets.  It will be interesting to see how this Jupiter station in December manifestson the financial markets.

This week features a number of short term aspects.  The early week looks a little bearish as Mars aspects Jupiter.  But the midweek Venus alignment with Uranus and Pluto could bring some relief.  Mars changes signs this week as it moves from Sagittarius to Capricorn later in the week.  This could be an added burden on sentiment. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

GOP takes control of Senate in US midterms

(10 November 2014)  Not surprisingly, the Republicans earned a solid win in last week's US midterm elections as the voting public delivered a stinging rebuke to President Obama and the Democrats.  The GOP now controls the Senate and House and will likely further hamper Obama's ability to implement his policies.  The GOP gains were fairly clearly seen through the horoscopes of the key players as Obama's chart continues to be weighed down by a stationary Rahu (North Lunar Node) and while the planets looked better for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  As I noted in a previous post, however, I think that McConnell will suffer some kind of major setback in early 2015 which could seriously diminish his leadership.  I'm not sure what form it will take, but it is likely to involve significant disappointment for GOP. 

The planets are looking increasingly tense this week and next.  There are a couple of near-simultaneous patterns which may foretell some noteworthy developments in the world scene.  First, both Venus and the Sun make their annual conjunction with Saturn in the coming days.  This is not inherently positive nor negative but rather simply brings forward the qualities of Saturn.  We may therefore see notions of authority and government highlighted in some way as their Saturnian role is brought into relief through events.  Authorities like predictability and control so there may be renewed efforts in that direction against the impulse towards freedom and self-realization.  The protest situation in Hong Kong may see new developments, for example.  The upcoming APEC summit is another possible manifestation of this Saturn energy as governments in the Pacific region seek to boost economic growth and enhance domestic security in the face of rising terror risk throughout the world. 

But the potential problem here is that this Sun-Venus-Saturn conjunction takes place in Scorpio.  Scorpio is traditionally ruled by Mars, a malefic planet that is associated with sudden actions, often without regard to consequences.  Mars is the planet of war and violence, although it is also connected with courage, assertiveness and executive action.  At the moment, Mars is in the middle of a very difficult alignment with Pluto, Uranus and Ketu (South Lunar Node).   Mars (action, energy) conjoins Pluto (power, coercion) early this week and then squares Uranus (rebellion, independence) later in the week.  In fact, Mars can be seen as triggering that long-standing square aspect between Pluto and Uranus that has been in effect for the past two years.  This is not a good pattern.  Next week, Mars will move on to square Ketu and therefore we could see more sudden reactions to Saturn's desire for regulation and control. 

To be sure, some of the potential tension of this Saturn and Mars energy could be offset by the fact that Jupiter is still exalted here in Cancer as it approaches its station in early December. But it seems hard to imagine that this pattern will not produce something of note. 

Financial Markets Update

This tense planetary pattern is also more likely to bring some turbulence in financial markets.  The Mars-Pluto-Uranus alignment has been identified as one that increases the probability of stock market declines.  The researcher Thomas Rieder noted that any time Mars conjoined an outer planet (Jupiter and beyond) while in hard aspect to another outer planet, markets were much more likely to fall in the days and weeks after the alignment became exact.  His research only showed a partial correlation so it is still possible that no decline may take place.  Nonetheless, the combined influence of this Mars alignment with Saturn in Scorpio should be reason to be cautious.  Mars conjoins Pluto on Monday and then squares Uranus on Wednesday and Thursday. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Stocks rise as Bank of Japan takes QE baton from Fed

(2 November 2014)  For anyone who owns stocks these days, it is surely comforting to know that no matter what, there is a central bank somewhere in the world that's got your back.  Just two days after the U.S. Federal Reserve announced that it would end its QE bond buying program on Wednesday, the Bank of Japan revealed that it would undertake its own massive QE-style program designed to boost inflation, depreciate the Yen and prop up the stock market. Quantitative Easing (QE) is the modern equivalent of the printing press, a monetary tool long-used to try to boost sagging economic growth, usually after a period of policy failures and excessive borrowing.  

The Fed's QE program has played a key part in the US economic recovery and caused a tripling of the stock market since 2009.  We may also humbly suggest that it has increased inequality in the US as the Wall St. wealthy have disproportionately enjoyed the fruits of Janet Yellen's largesse while Main Street has suffered wage stagnation.  The paradoxical assumption of QE is that stagnation brought about by excessive debt can be miraculously cured by issuing more debt as central banks assume the role of the lender of last resort.  Most people realize this insane scheme will eventually fall apart and the lenders will have to be repaid.   But then again it may make political sense to postpone an economic collapse as much as possible so that elites are given time to best position themselves.

Financial markets cheered this fresh injection of liquidity as it freed up investment capital to chase riskier assets like stocks.  Tokyo stocks soared 5% on the news, while other markets enjoyed significant gains.  It was perhaps a fitting end to the month of October which has seen many stock markets around the world rebound from lows as Venus exited the difficult sign of Virgo and entered the friendlier confines of Libra on 18 October.  Venus will continue its transit of Libra until 12 November. 

Does this mean that stocks will continue to rise until 12 November?  The short answer is not necessarily, although the presence of a stronger Venus is definitely helpful for investor sentiment all other things being equal.  Other factors also have to be taken into consideration such as planetary aspects and also the geometric alignments within the main stock exchange horoscopes.  The fact that gold fell sharply last week to new lows for the year at $1170 was proof that there is more to price trends than simple planetary sign placement.  A strong Venus is typically good for gold but this was trumped, I would argue, by ongoing afflictions to the key natal horoscope for gold which I have noted in previous posts. 

An equally important factor may well be that Saturn has now entered sidereal Scorpio as of Saturday 1 November.  For the past two and a half years, Saturn has been transiting the sign of Libra, a sign where it is said to be exalted.  This exalted status of Saturn allows for its more positive qualities to come forth such as pragmatism, obligation and respect for large institutions.  Although Saturn is often considered a bearish planet where it comes to the stock market, its more favourable placement in Libra since early 2012 may be one reason why many stock markets (e.g. India, USA) have climbed to new all-time highs.   But Saturn's new environment in Scorpio may be less constructive as Saturn is said to do poorly in this Mars-ruled sign.  This is not to suggest that markets are doomed to fall immediately here in November.  Saturn's transit of Scorpio lasts some thirty months and therefore we could see some of its ill-effects spread out over this length of time.   It's worth noting that the last time Saturn was in Scorpio, the US stock market suffered its worst crash ever in 1987.  I would expect a similar crash-type event to occur at some point between now and 2017.

A quick look at the chart of the New York Stock Exchange shows how the current placement of Saturn is increasingly negative but may well be offset by a similarly positive placement of Jupiter.  Transiting Saturn now opposes both Mercury and the Sun in this chart and this tends to be bearish for stock prices.  On the other hand, Jupiter (26 Cancer) is exalted and now forms a very nice trine aspect to the natal Moon (28 Pisces) in this chart.   Just how these two opposing influences may end up affecting the stock market is unclear in the short term although one would think that the ease of recent gains may no longer be forthcoming.  But it seems likely that stocks may have greater difficulty staying aloft once Jupiter turns retrograde on 8 December at 28 Cancer and begins to move away from its close aspect with the natal Moon. 

Financial Markets Update

Some negativity is more likely this week on Tuesday's Mercury-Saturn alignment.  With Saturn having just entered Scorpio, there may be some renewed sense of caution.  And with the US midterm elections scheduled for the same day, perhaps the political outcome will somehow rankle investors.  Friday's Mars-Saturn angle also suggests an increase in anxiety.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stocks rebound as Venus leaves Virgo

(21 October 2014) Financial markets appear to have calmed down now after suffering from a serious case of the jitters over the past couple of weeks.    After ISIS, the possibility of recession in Germany and then the Ebola scare in the US, investors had become wary of future prospects and had assumed a more defensive position.  But now it seems to be a case of 'no news is good news' as sentiment is more stable this week and stocks have rebounded across the globe. 

The Dow finished down 1% last week and even briefly traded below 16,000 before recovering on Friday and ending the week at 16,380.  The rebound has continued into Monday.  India's Sensex also dropped 1% last week as the Sensex closed at 26,108 and came back strongly in Monday's trade.  This outcome was largely in keeping with our expectations as I thought last week's Mars-Saturn alignment would likely correlate with significant declines.  This was definitely the case as the midweek low was the lowest level for US stocks since April. 

The other factor in the decline and subsequent rebound in financial markets is that the transit of Venus through sidereal Virgo is now over.  Previously, I had predicted that this four-week transit of Venus would likely correspond to some downside for the markets.  My previous research into this transit showed a high correlation with declining stocks markets and this was likely to be the case again here given the absence of other obviously positive influences.  In astrological terms, Venus is the planet of money and value and when it moves through Virgo, its traditional zodiac sign of debilitation, values tend to be re-assessed and constrained in some way as optimism fades and caution rises.  This transit takes place once a year.   It is also important to note that these bearish transit effects appear to have a higher correlation with the sidereal zodiac in common use in India rather than the Western tropical zodiac.

As the charts show, most financial markets lost 4-5% of their value during this transit.  Of course, the recent decline cannot explained solely in terms of that one factor, but previous transits have also occurred at times of caution and pessimism in the markets.  Markets may also have be weaker because of the culmination of the Jupiter-Uranus aspect on 24 September.  This is a typically bullish influence and once it becomes exact much of its positive energy is no longer available.  Markets therefore become more susceptible to declines in the wake of the aspect as the planets separate from their 120 degree angle.  The rebound has begun now that Venus has left Virgo and has entered Libra, which is typically a more positive sign. 

This week could see more gains as the short term aspects seem mostly positive.  Rahu/Ketu is in close aspect with Jupiter while Mercury may be acting as the winged messenger of good news through its close conjunction with Rahu.  To some extent, Monday's rise may have tapped into most of this positive energy so it is less clear how much will be left for the rest of the week.  One would think that the Sun-Venus-Moon conjunction on Thursday will be mostly bullish and in the absence of any clearly negative aspects, it seems fairly likely that stocks will stay strong.  Indian markets will be closed for Diwali on Thursday and Friday so that makes a positive finish to their shortened trading week that much likelier.

Monday, October 13, 2014

US Midterm Elections: Obama's bad timing

(13 October 2014)  The bad news keeps on coming for US President Barack Obama.  Not only has Ebola arrived on American shores in the face of his previous reassurances to the contrary, but now a medical worker in Dallas who treated the late Thomas Duncan has contracted it despite following all the appropriate safety protocols. Questions are now being raised about Obama's ability to lead the country amid this worsening crisis as well as the CDC's competence in trying to keep Ebola under control.  If that weren't enough, reports are emerging about the ineffectiveness of the US air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  ISIS continues to advance on its targets and has now surrounded Baghdad.  If Baghdad falls to advancing ISIS forces, Obama may have no choice but to put US troops on the ground in order to protect its strategic interests in the region. 

The timing of these setbacks could not be worse for the President as the US prepares to go to the polls for the midterm elections on November 4th.  In a previous post, I suggested that the ongoing stationary transit of Rahu (North Lunar Node) on Obama's 9th house cusp was a plausible astrological explanation for his current troubles.  With the 9th house symbolizing foreign places and Rahu representing disruption, especially involving foreign-born people, it was not hard to put two and two together and recognize that Obama's problems very much originate beyond US soil.  I also suggested that the tension implied in this Rahu transit was damaging the chances of his Democrat party to retain control of the Senate.  If the Dems lose the Senate, then Obama would be further marginalized and hamstrung during his remaining two years.   Currently, the polls are too close to call.

Another window on the question of the midterms may be seen through the horoscope of the person who arguably has the most to gain by a GOP win in November, namely, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader.  If the Republicans win a majority in the Senate, he would become the Majority Leader and therefore would become the second most powerful person in Washington, a position now enjoyed by Harry Reid.  

But a quick look at McConnell's chart and we can see a complicated picture.  If McConnell and the GOP were going to win in November, then why would there be nasty-looking Saturn opposition to his natal Mars-Saturn conjunction?  This is a terrible transit and suggests frustration, annoyance, stress and setbacks.  This is exact over the next two weeks so it is conceivable it may ease off somewhat by Election Day as Saturn gradually moves away.  McConnell himself is in a surprising tight race for his Kentucky Senate seat so it is possible that he may face a setback of his own very soon.  Unfortunately, we do not know his time of birth so we can only hazard some educated guesses about the possible effects of this transit.  But on the face of it, this does not look like the chart of a newly-elected Senate Majority Leader.

Looking forward to November 4th, we can see that Saturn will have just entered Scorpio and will be aligned with Mercury.  The Moon conjoins Ketu when the returns will come in on the evening of the 4th and both will be in close aspect to Jupiter.  I try to avoid making too many symbolic interpretations from such transit patterns, but the Ketu influence with the Moon and Jupiter is not favorable for incumbents and maintaining the status quo.  Ketu is usually a planet of change that seeks to reveal what lies beneath the surface. 

But the absence of any clearly positive transits in McConnell's chart is a bit puzzling.   A few scenarios are possible.  His party could reclaim the Senate but he could lose his own seat.  This is perhaps more possible than one might expect as recent polls show him only up by 3 points.  Or both he and the GOP could win in November but he may not be approved as the next Senate Majority Leader when the House reconvenes in January.  Perhaps he would get word of this internal opposition in October and thus have that Saturn-to Mars/Saturn manifest in that way.  There have been some murmurings within the Republican Party that McConnell would be opposed in the event of a GOP win on Nov. 4, especially from its more activist Tea Party wing.  Certainly, McConnell's chart looks heavily afflicted in January and February when Saturn will square his Sun.  This is usually a very difficult transit which blocks ambitions and undermines the ego.  If McConnell does turn out to win his seat and lead the GOP to victory on Nov. 4, then I would expect a major reversal of his fortunes in early 2015. 

Obama's transits for Election Day are similarly mixed.  Besides the negative Rahu influence, Saturn will form a close 3rd house sextile aspect to natal Saturn.  This is usually difficult and reflects lack of progress.  On the other hand, both Sun and Venus are sitting high up in the chart near the equal 10th house cusp.  This is usually positive for status and enjoying a high profile.  But the Sun and Venus are fast moving planets and may not be enough to put Obama and the Democrats over the top and maintain control of the Senate. 

And if we examine Obama's relocated chart for Washington, DC, we can see that the Mars-Pluto conjunction at 13-17 Sagittarius is sitting right atop his 8th house cusp.  This is usually very stressful and is not conducive to success.  It is possible this harsh and sometimes violent transit may only manifest are troubles with his military campaign against ISIS or the Ebola outbreak rather than the election outcome.  But the timing seems more than coincidental since the Mars transit is near exact in early November.  Overall, I think Obama and the Democrats are more likely to lose the Senate, even if the charts are more mixed than I would like.  In any event, it should be a very eventful and intense next several weeks in US politics.

Financial Markets Update

Stocks declined last week as investors pondered the implications of the news that the once-indestructible German economy is now on the verge of recession.  The Dow fell 3% on the week closing at 16,544 while Indian stock market lost 1% as the Sensex finished the week at 26,297.   This negative outcome was in line with expectations as I thought we would see more volatility around the lunar eclipse and the Mars-Jupiter aspect.  US stocks suffered their biggest drop on Thursday just as this aspect was exact.

As I have mentioned previously, the transit of Venus through sidereal Virgo is usually bearish for stocks and this has definitely been the case this year.  The transit concludes on Sunday the 19th so it may be pre-mature to expect stocks to recover too much this week.  In fact, the close alignment of the Sun with malefics Mars and Saturn looks difficult.  Downside risk will likely remain high for much of this week.  As I write this, US markets have already declined more than 1% after Monday's trading.  One would think it likely that there is more downside to come.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ebola arrives in US

(5 October 2014)  The deadly Ebola epidemic entered a new phase last week as the first case was recorded in United States.   On September 30th, the CDC confirmed that Thomas Duncan had contracted Ebola in his native Liberia and had become ill after arriving on a visit to his family in Dallas, Texas.  While Duncan is undergoing treatment, the CDC is scrambling to find all his contacts between September 24 and 28 when he was symptomatic but not yet quarantined in hospital.  This is the first recorded case outside of West Africa since the latest outbreak began in March in Guinea.   This Ebola outbreak is not yet under control and has killed more than 3000 people to date.

In a previous post in August, I offered an admittedly preliminary and somewhat speculative analysis of the current outbreak.  The problem was that the beginning or "birth" of Ebola is ultimately unknowable: we cannot know exactly when it first jumped from animals to human.  In the absence of any reliable data, I suggested a possible chart for the first case of Ebola in terms of an individual seeking medical attention.  Based on this chart, I thought that the outbreak might begin to ebb by now.  Obviously, this hasn't happened as the number of cases continues to grow exponentially. 

One thing I may have got wrong was focusing on the first recorded case of Ebola in Sudan in June 1976.  What is important here is to recognize that there are several different strains of Ebola.  The current outbreak, which is by far the worst, is the strain that originated in Zaire -- now known as Congo.  The Zaire strain of Ebola (sometimes written as Ebola-Z) began in late August 1976, fully two months after the Sudan outbreak.  The Zaire outbreak was more lethal and has been implicated in most of the major serious outbreaks since.  This may mean that a horoscope of the Ebola virus should focus on the Zaire strain rather than the Sudan strain. 

The other factor is finding an appropriate beginning to the virus.  My previous post looked at the date that the first victim sought out medical treatment.  This was obviously several days after they contracted the virus so that is a rather huge margin of error.  Another approach may be to examine the chart of the date of the first death from Ebola.  Since the high mortality rate is one of its defining characteristics, a horoscope cast for this date could illuminate the patterns of lethality of the virus.  This, in turn, could provide some insight on its possible future development. 

We know that the first death from Ebola-Z occurred on September 8, 1976 in Yambuku.  Mobalo Lokela sought medical treatment on August 26th and eventually died two weeks later.  This became what is known as the "index case" for the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus that is currently spreading around the world. 

While we don't know what time he died, the resulting horoscope nonetheless has several telling alignments of planets.  When the birth time is not known, we can use the Moon as the Lagna (Ascendant) and read the chart from there.  Mr. Lokela died on a Full Moon when both the Sun and Moon were in a difficult t-square pattern with Neptune.  In Western astrology, Neptune is the planet of disease and sickness and it is very apt that it should be in a close tense aspect with the lights.  The chart also seems appropriate that it should be associated with illness since the Lagnesh (1st house ruler) is Saturn and it is situated six houses from the Moon in Cancer.  The 6th house is primarily concerned with health and the presence of lagnesh Saturn here is just what we would expect from a lethal viral disease like Ebola.  Saturn is considered the most malefic planet in the horoscope and tends to do damage to whatever planets or houses it is connected with.

But the chart gets worse.  Look at all those planets in Virgo in the 8th house.  The 8th house represents death and chronic disease, among other things.  Mercury, Venus, Mars and Pluto are all tightly clustered in the 8th house and therefore brings an additional burden to this chart.  The added difficulty is that all those Virgo planets received a full-strength three house/sextile aspect from Saturn.  This essentially Saturnizes all those planets and makes the 8th house that much more toxic and dangerous.  The aspect is very close -- just a few degrees from the exact 60 degrees of the sextile.  To be sure, Jupiter also aspects the four Virgo planets but it is a wider aspect.  But Saturn is the more powerful influence by virtue of the narrower orb. Such a prominent 8th house should not be surprising for a virus that kills more than 50% of people who contract it. 

We can also see that Saturn (18 Cancer) is in a very tight conjunction with the Node of Neptune (19 Cancer).  Just as the Moon has Nodes (Rahu and Ketu),.so, too, do all the planets.  Since Neptune is closely associated with disease, this Saturn placement on a clearly Neptunian degree is another reason why Saturn's destructive energy should have been associated with a virus in this case. 

While we may better understand just how badly afflicted this chart is, we still need an explanation why the 2014 outbreak has been by far the worst in history. Without the time of the death, we can only make some general observations.  In terms of transits, the once-in-eighty-year square aspect of Uranus-Pluto is hitting the tail end of that Virgo stellium.   At the time of outbreak begin in March, Uranus was exactly opposite the Mars-Pluto conjunction.  Uranus has only moved off a few degrees and is now backing up into another close opposition.  Pluto (17 Sagittarius) is now exactly square the natal Mars-Pluto (16-17 Virgo) within a few minutes of arc.  Both Uranus and Pluto are powerful activating planets when in hard aspect (0,90,180) and can release the energy contained in a natal chart in very intense and sudden ways. Although we could look at other supplementary charts, I think these transits offer a solid clue why Ebola has been much worse in 2014 compared with other years.  Out of respect for Occam's razor, we should try to find an explanation that satisfies the simplest chart factors such as transits. 

We can also see that Saturn has been transiting late Libra for most of the year.  This forms a fairly close square aspect with its natal position and the 6th house (illness).  This may be another reason why we have seen many more deaths this year. 

Interestingly, the CDC's announcement of the Ebola case on September 30th has an exact conjunction of transiting Mars (17 Scorpio) with Neptune.  Mars is another malefic planet that is associated with intense bursts of energy.  This is perhaps appropriate given that the Ebola epidemic has seemingly entered a new global phase.

Making predictions from such a tentative and approximated chart is very hard to do.  That said, I will be interested to see what happens when Mars squares up agains the Sun at 22 Scorpio in the first half of this week.  This looks bad.  Another window to watch is the first week of November when Mars will conjoin Pluto and therefore square all those Virgo planets.  This looks like even worse news.   Pluto will gradually move away from its square aspect so that could bring a lessening of severity.  The trouble is that Rahu (North Node) will conjoin the Mars-Pluto conjunction in February and March.  This is a particularly nasty alignment of planets so I would expect significant Ebola-related news at that time.  Whether or not the virus can be brought under control by then is unclear.  Without knowing the specifics, I would not be too hopeful.  It seems more likely we will have to contend with Ebola well into 2015.

Financial Markets Update

All the Ebola talk provided sufficient reason for traders to sell as stocks slipped last week.  Despite Friday's encouraging jobs report, US stocks lost ground with the Dow closing at 17,009.  Indian stocks also wavered a bit in the holiday-shortened week as the Sensex finished at 26,567.  I thought we were more likely to see declines last week given the Venus in Virgo effect.  This came to pass although the precise timing left something to be desired. 

This week could see a rise in volatility.  In particular, the focus is on Wednesday and Thursday.  A lunar eclipse occurs at 21 Pisces on Wednesday in close conjunction with unstable Uranus.  Larger than normal movements is more likely around that time.  Thursday's Mars-Jupiter aspect may also bring noteworthy changes in sentiment.  With Venus still transiting Virgo, it is more difficult to expect gains from these patterns. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Obama's war on ISIS and the perils of Rahu

(28 September 2014)  One of the ironies of American history is that the presidents who are seemingly the least inclined towards the use of military power end up being some of its main practitioners.  Woodrow Wilson (WW1), FDR (WW2), LBJ (Vietnam) are famous for campaigning against war but ended up in the thick of it despite their more humanitarian or isolationist impulses. Now it seems Barack Obama is the latest president to undergo this reluctant conversion to military force as he has committed US troops and air power into Iraq and Syria to fight the rising threat of ISIS.  In 2008, Obama campaigned on getting the US out of Iraq after a long and painful war and finally achieved this goal in 2011 to much popular fanfare and national relief. 

However, things haven't gone well since then as the Iraqi government has been narrowly dominated by Shiites and have therefore alienated much of the Sunni population in the north.  This has opened the door to radical groups like ISIS to move into Iraq from its base from the already war-ravaged Syria.  The lack of a US military presence on the ground has made a bad situation worse since there was no co-ordination or oversight to the fledging Iraqi army.  The army has proven to be inept and corrupt and dominated by inexperienced political appointees. Obama has to own this war now since he chose to remove the residual US force despite advice to the contrary from some his own military advisors. 

So now he appears to be leading from the rear again as he is trying to correct his previous, if understandable, mistake to remove the troops prematurely. It all amounts to another foreign policy set back for Obama who is seen by many as weak and ineffectual on this file.   Significantly, the president has yet to enjoy any kind of popularity boost from his announcements of air strikes as sometimes happens when political fortunes have been sagging.  Obama's popularity remains stuck near 40%  which is the still at the bottom of its range during his presidency. 

Astrologically, we do not have to look very far to see the fingerprints of the stars in this case.  Foreign affairs and travel are typically seen through the 9th house in the horoscope so when it is influenced by a malefic planet, we can predict the likelihood of problems in those areas.  Currently, transiting Rahu (North Lunar Node) is almost exactly conjunct Obama's equal 9th house cusp (24 Virgo).  Rahu is a malefic planet by nature and often describes situations that are unstable and disruptive to the status quo.  Although Rahu does not always correspond with explicitly negative outcomes, it definitely increases the probability of undesirable events.  Its uncertain and changeable energy also does not work well in the 9th house which tends to be better expressed with more conservative and traditional energy such as provided by Jupiter.  Obama's potential for headaches and troubles in this area multiply because Rahu has been stationary at 25 Virgo for several weeks.  It will continue to station on this degree until November.  In other words, Obama is unlikely to have things go his way for a while yet. 

This Rahu transit also bodes poorly for Obama's Democratic Party in the midterm elections on November 4th.  Current polling models suggest the GOP is now slightly favored to win 51 or more seats and gain control of the Senate.  Obama's horoscope seems to confirm this view of a Republican Senate victory, although I hope to post something in greater detail on this question over the next week or so after I review more of the relevant charts. 

Financial Markets Update

Stocks fell last week on geopolitical worries, terrorist threats and more weak economic data out of China.  US stocks lost about 1% on the week as the Dow closed at 17,113 while the Indian market slumped 2% with the BSE-Sensex finishing at 26,626.  I thought we might have seen more upside especially ahead of the Jupiter-Uranus aspect on Thursday.  We did get some gains globally before Thursday but the exact aspect brought more selling.  Interestingly, Thursday was also the day that Venus entered the sign of its debilitation (i.e. weakness) and stocks fell across the board.  While I am fairly pessimistic about stocks during the transit of Venus through Virgo (which ends on October 18th), I thought we might have seen a brief rise on Thursday.  Not so. 

This week will see a troublesome looking Mars-Pluto aspect early in the week which could correlate with some declines.  However, the midweek Mercury-Venus alignment could resuscitate hope -- if only for a while.  Venus will move further into Virgo, of course, so that could put more pressure on the market.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Alibaba IPO sets record

(21 September 2014)  China-based e-commerce giant Alibaba went public on Friday as its $22 Billion IPO was the biggest in history.  Started in 1999, Alibaba is now among the biggest companies in the world and is poised to erode the market dominance of US-based companies like Ebay and Amazon.  While the financial structure of the company and its shares have come under some criticism, the future looks bright for this rising Asian star in global e-commerce. 

After some delays matching the huge volume of buy and sell orders, the first trade of Alibaba (symbol:BABA) took place at 11.54 a.m. The resulting first trade chart is now the horoscope of Alibaba's shares.  First trade charts represent a kind of "birth" of the publicly traded version of the company and provide useful clues to the ups and downs of the share price going forward.  Founding and incorporation dates also reflect the overall fortunes of the company, and therefore can add additional information about the direction of share prices. 

There are several placements that jump out as very appropriate for this much-anticipated IPO.  Mars is rising in its own sign of Scorpio and thus reflects the probable high profile of Alibaba shares.  1st house lord placed in the 1st house is a classic astrological signature for prominence, high profile and fame. The conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter in Cancer in the 9th house also looks beneficial in a general sort of way in terms of good fortune.  The Moon does well in its own sign of Cancer and Jupiter is exalted there so that could add credibility to the company's image.  The strong Jupiter placement in the 9th house therefore reducing the likelihood of scandal or major problems.  Also, Jupiter casts a wide trine aspect to that Mars in the 1st house, so that is also a plus. 

There is also a nice arrangement of money influences here.  Jupiter rules the 2nd house of wealth and it is exalted and it aspects the ruler of the 1st house, Mars. This is a wealth-producing Dhana Yoga.  Jupiter's trine aspect with Uranus may enhance the wealth-producing effects of this chart.  The 11th lord of gains is Mercury and it is also exalted in Virgo and placed in its own house with Rahu.  This is another very positive placement.  While Rahu can be troublesome, I see it as mostly positive here because Rahu does very well in the 11th house which is associated with material gains.  The 10th house lord, Sun (Leo) is also placed in the 11th house in Virgo.  This is a good indication that Alibaba's fame will be connected in some way to income and likely share price increase. 

To be sure, it's not all great.  Saturn is dubiously placed in the 12th house of loss although fortunately, it is exalted in the sign of Libra.  It is also otherwise unafflicted and a fair distance from the cusp, so I would not expect too many Saturn-like problems.  That said, the current dasha for Alibaba is Saturn-Mars so that is definitely a negative influence in the short run.  The Saturn-Rahu dasha begins in July 2015 and may signal better times ahead. 

In the short run, there is a chance that Alibaba's share price will fall back to earth somewhat from its first-day valuation above $90.  Saturn will transit across its Ascendant in the coming weeks and therefore we could see some significant selling take place.  Saturn will then station in conjunction with Mars (9 Scorpio) in early spring next year so that is another reason to be cautious.  This is perhaps a fairly familiar dynamic with high profile IPOs.  Facebook was launched with a lot of hype and saw early gains but then the stock tanked heavily in the next 6-12 months.  It is now trading well above its IPO price and has fulfilled some of the positive expectation I previously wrote about in this space. A good natal chart doesn't mean the stock will always go up; it only means that it should end up higher than its IPO price and should make its shareholders money over the long term.  I think that the Alibaba first trade chart is similar in that respect.  Long term, it looks quite good but there could well be some significant losses in the short term. 

Financial Markets Update

Stocks were generally higher last week as the Fed assuaged any fears of a quick interest rate hike.  Scotland also voted "No" (as predicted) and thus that black swan uncertainty was removed from investor calculus.  The Dow rose by 2% closing at a new all-time record high of 17,279.  The Indian Sensex inched higher closing at 27,090 after rebounding from earlier losses.  This mildly bullish outcome was not surprising as I thought some kind of rebound was possible after the early week Mercury-Rahu conjunction.  We did get some declines at that time but the buyers returned later in the week. 

This week could be interesting since Jupiter will form its exact aspect with Uranus on Thursday.  This is one of the reasons stocks have been fairly strong over the past couple of weeks so I would think more upside is likely.  Also Venus will enter Virgo on Thursday and thus begin its four-week long transit of its sign of debilitation.  This tends to be negative for stocks although the entry itself may be bullish.  For more info on the effects of Venus in Virgo, readers are invited to check out my previous posts on the subject.  Monday's Mars-Neptune aspect looks difficult.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Scottish referendum pushes UK to the brink

(14 September 2014)  The people of Scotland are on the verge of making history this week.  On Thursday, they will vote on whether they will become an independent country or remain part of the United Kingdom. Under the leadership of First Minister Alex Salmond, the "Yes" side has enjoyed considerable gains in the popularity in the past weeks. Recent polls now show about a 50-50 split for Scottish independence.  The gains for the independence side has brought about a vigorous response by pro-Union "No" supporters including intensive campaigning by the leaders of all four UK political parties.  The vote will likely be very close but which side will win?

Based on my understanding of the key astrological influences at the time of the referendum, I think the chances are high that Scotland will vote to remain in the UK.  There are a few angles one could take in answering this question, but let's focus on the chart of pro-independence leader Alex Salmond.  Born 31 December 1954 at 4.30 p.m., Salmond's chart is quite strong as one would expect.  His 10th house Moon in Pisces hints at his ability to lead (10th house) people towards an idealistic vision (Pisces). 

His talents in this kind of undertaking receives a huge boost from the very close trine aspect of the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction in his second house. Moreover, we can see that Jupiter was extra-powerful at the time of his birth since it was at its highest degree of exaltation (3 Cancer) according to Vedic principles.   All of that good Jupiter energy could then be directed towards his Moon in the 10th -- a perfect signature for someone who is a popular representative and servant of the people (Moon).  The cross-sign conjunction of the Moon with Mars gives him more energy to succeed in his tasks to lead and inspire the people around him.

Even more remarkable is that his Venus (2 Scorpio) forms a near-exact Grand Trine pattern with Jupiter/Uranus and the Moon.  Venus confers more good fortune on Mr. Salmond as it enhances his skills at making social connections and friendships.  Jupiter's aspect to Venus also makes his 5th house more powerful since Venus rules Libra, the sign in the 5th house.  The 5th house is associated with intelligence generally as well as the ability to give trusted advice.  The 5th house is also said to be the most explicitly political of all twelve houses in the horoscope.

Saturn is also very strong in this chart as it is exalted in Libra in the 5th house of politics and is actually located precisely on the equal 5th house cusp at 25 Libra.  This can give Salmond a very disciplined and logical approach to life and should be seen as a useful counterweight to the idealism of his Pisces Moon.   Salmond's restlessness and desire to break with the status quo is perhaps indicated by the conjunction of the Sun and Mercury with Rahu (North Lunar Node) in the 7th house.  Rahu tends to destabilize planets it is associated with as it guides individuals to innovative or sometimes radical action.  Sun-Rahu conjunctions may also imply an inherent resistance (Rahu) towards authority (Sun) and that may well be the case here as Scotland vies to break with three hundred years of union with Britain. 

On the day of the referendum, we can see there are some very potent transits. Saturn will be almost exactly conjunct its natal position at 25 Libra.  While Saturn is a malefic planet by nature, its exalted status here means that outcomes are more open-ended.  But aside from the question of outcomes, the Saturn Return is associated with taking of responsibility for past actions and fulfilling one's destiny.  Salmond has been a campaigner for independence for many years and his long struggle is reaching its apex now.  His profile has never been higher.  While the exalted status of Saturn is something of a plus for this transit, the potential problem is that Saturn rules the 8th and 9th houses in his chart.  Neither of these houses are associated with gains or competition, however, so I am less inclined to see this Saturn-to-Saturn transit in positive terms. While not necessarily negative, it may only refer to the huge personal significance of this referendum.

Transiting Ketu and Uranus are in the 10th house and also underscore the importance of this time for him.  These are both slow moving planets whose transit of the 10th house of status and career symbolizes how pivotal 2014 has been in Salmond's life.  In this respect, Ketu (25 Pisces) is exactly conjunct his equal 10th house cusp and thus is an appropriate placement for a circumstance that focuses public attention towards him.  The flip side is that Rahu is on the 4th house cusp, which is another indication of the intensity and instability of his current emotional condition as he awaits the public verdict on his life-long dream.

On balance, I think there are too many malefic planets involved in tight transits at the moment.   Ketu isn't always bad in the 10th house and Saturn isn't always bad in its return to its natal position.  But to have these two happening at the same time may be a bridge too far for Mr. Salmond.   Venus will be a fairly close opposition to Mars on the day of the referendum which is usually not conducive with happiness, while Lagnesh Mercury by transit in Virgo will fall under Mars' 8th house aspect.   For these reasons, I don't think Salmond will be satisfied with Thursday's result.  While some other scenarios are conceivable with this chart, I generally expect the No side will win and that Scotland will choose to remain part of the UK. 

Financial Markets Update

US markets slipped a bit last week as investors pondered the likelihood of higher interest rates sooner rather than later as the Dow closed at 16,987.  In Mumbai, stocks inched slightly higher with the Sensex again closing above 27,000 as falling oil prices lessened inflation worries.   I had been fairly neutral here given the mix of influences.  We did see some midweek strength on the Jupiter influence while the late week Sun-Saturn alignment brought about some selling.  As expected, gold and many commodities extended their recent decline.

This week again could see stocks move in both directions.  Tuesday's Mercury-Rahu conjunction looks problematic so some downside is more likely at that time.  However, there may still be some intermittent upside possible on various short-term Jupiter aspects throughout the week.  And the Jupiter-Uranus aspect isn't due to peak until the 25th so that could provide enough optimism to keep the rally going a little bit longer.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Draghi cuts rates as Europe slips back into recession

(7 September 2014)  One wonders when all this talk about an economy that is "moving in the right direction" will finally end and the economy will truly get back to "normal".   But six years after the Great Recession of 2008, most Western economies are still struggling and remain below their pre-meltdown levels by most measures.  This never-ending recovery has seen the official US unemployment fall to 6% but many discouraged workers have simply dropped out of the labor force and are therefore not counted.  Wages have been stagnant while much of the Fed's zero-interest rate and QE policy seems to have helped Wall St. and the wealthy more than the average person.  The Fed's version of trickle down economics has purposely driven up the stock market to record highs.  Unfortunately, someone should inform Janet Yellen that the majority of Americans don't actually own stocks so this only makes the rich richer.  The situation in Europe is arguably worse as several countries have now actually slipped back into recession as official unemployment is stuck at a stubbornly high 12%.

Enter ECB President Mario Draghi.  Last week, the head of the European Central Bank followed the Fed's playbook and cut EU interest rates to near zero (0.05% to be precise) and announced a QE-style debt buyback program of his own.  The risk of another full-scale recession and deflation (i.e. falling prices) forced Draghi to essentially print more money in an attempt to encourage more economic activity in the Eurozone.  His move to cut rates to zero is aimed at getting more European banks to lend to businesses who may in turn hire more workers.  That's the theory anyway. 

These moves by the ECB also amounted to a de facto devaluation of the Euro as lower rates meant less reason for investors to hold Euros.  The fall in the Euro may well be the underlying logic for the rate cut since a lower currency ought to boost export-related jobs as their goods become cheaper. In fact, we should see these recent stimulus measures by the ECB, the Fed, or the People's Bank of China as currency devaluations aimed at kickstarting the economy.   A similar currency war occurred during the Depression in the 1930s as governments were desperately looking for any way they could to escape the downward economic spiral.  History is repeating itself. 

In my financial newsletter, I had been forecasting a significant summer decline in the Euro.  This has largely come to pass as the Euro ended the week under 1.30 against the US Dollar after trading as high as 1.40 in May.  There were several astrological influences behind this decline in the Euro.  First and foremost, transiting Rahu (North Node) is conjunct the natal Mars (24 Virgo) in the Euro horoscope. Rahu is considered a natural malefic by Vedic authorities although it can also correspond with positive outcomes depending on other factors in the chart.  A more negative outcome was more likely here since the planet it was conjunct, Mars, is also a natural malefic. 

Moreover, Mars was closely opposed by destabilizing Uranus (21 Pisces) and this may have made the Rahu influence more likely to manifest negatively.  We may also speculate on the effects of the close 30-degree alignment between transiting Saturn (24 Libra) and Mars.  While Saturn is not properly aspecting Mars, the exact alignment is usually important enough to coincide with some effects. The devaluing of the Euro is a very appropriate manifestation of this triple whammy of Rahu, Saturn and Uranus.  The four-month long decline of the Euro began in May with a similarly negative astrological influence as Ketu (South Node) conjoined natal Saturn (3 Aries).  Again, this was a conjunction of two naturally malefic planets not unlike the current situation.

I would expect the Euro to continue its decline well into 2015.   While Rahu will move away from Mars fairly soon, Uranus will form a more exact opposition to Mars next year.  We could therefore see the Euro move much lower still.  This suggests the recession in the Eurozone will likely worsen and hence force Draghi to buy a larger amount of asset and government debt.  The money printing may well continue indefinitely, or until we get hyper-inflation or a deflationary collapse.  Either way, I'm not optimistic.

Financial Markets Update

The ECB interest rate cut helped to boost stocks last week as investors cheered the inflow of liquidity.  The Dow was up marginally closing at 17,137 while the Sensex added 400 points finishing at 27,026. I had been somewhat neutral last week given the mix of planetary influences in play.  We did get some modest gains in the first half of the week on the respective Venus and Jupiter influences.  And the entry of Mars into sidereal Scorpio on Thursday did correlate with declines in many global markets that day. 

This week again offers support for both bulls and bears.  The midweek Jupiter-Mercury aspect looks bullish so we could see some gains.  But the late week Sun-Saturn-Rahu pattern looks more difficult for stocks.  We could see the Euro fall further this week along with gold and other commodities as more money moves into the Dollar.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Russian invades eastern Ukraine

(31 August 2014) Russian troops invaded eastern Ukraine last week prompting calls for tougher sanctions against the Putin government.  Putin denies that any invasion took place but evidence is mounting that the Russian adventure in Ukraine has entered a new phase.  Some observers are suggesting that Putin wants a land connection to Crimea, which Russia already took control of several months ago.  Thus far, US and EU sanctions have had little effect in deterring Russia and the eastern Ukrainian rebels.   Putin continues to bank on the unwillingness of the West to stop him militarily.  Meanwhile, newly-elected Ukrainian President Poroshenko is calling for NATO membership and armed intervention by the West. 

In a previous post in July, I suggested that Putin was likely to do something unpredictable and likely unsuccessful in August and September.  I noted that transiting Rahu (North Node) conjoined his Saturn at 24 Virgo.  I also thought that last week's Mars-Saturn conjunction at 23 Libra could also signify important developments in this crisis since it would align with Putin's Saturn.  Thia invasion would seem to fulfill some of that planetary symbolism as Putin is revealing himself as a law unto himself without regard for international opinion.   We can see that the invasion occurred when transiting Mars and Saturn were square his natal nodes.  This is a classic signature for unrestrained aggressive action without consideration for consequences.  Putin's tendency to act suddenly and unpredictably is further indicated by the exact Uranus opposition to his Sun. 

In the July post, I thought that Putin's chart did not look good given the Rahu and Saturn influences.  Not only is Rahu conjunct his Sun-Saturn pairing, but transiting Saturn (24 Libra) is moving up to oppose his Jupiter (26 Aries) and aspect his natal Ketu at 26 Cancer.  Of course, it is a matter of interpretation whether Putin is getting what he wants at this point.  Ukraine has not yet taken back eastern Ukraine although it has made gains in the past weeks against the Russian-backed rebels.  And the Russian troops have not yet gained a clear advantage or even engaged the Ukrainian army in a significant way.  Putin likely expected the current level of Western outrage but short of arming Ukraine, the West likely hasn't done anything that he wouldn't have planned on.

Given the tightening of the Saturn aspect to Jupiter and Ketu in the next several weeks, I would expect Putin's efforts to be opposed quite strongly.  The US may well decide to send arms to Ukraine.  And it may also decide to send NATO troops into the nearby Baltic states as a deterrent measure against possible future Russian attacks. In keeping with Saturn's tendency to deny one's ambitions, both of these moves would be a step backward for Putin's plans of resurrecting the Soviet Empire.  With Putin's chart looking afflicted in September, I would expect his troubles to continue with stronger Western actions quite likely. 

Putin's fortunes will likely improve, however, by November.  Saturn will have moved away from its affliction to Jupiter and allow for more of his plans to be realized.   This could include presenting a better case to the international community to justify his actions, or it may mean divisions among Western nations.  And it may also include military success.  I don't know if there will be a full-scale war with Ukraine.  Certainly, that is still possible given how unstable Putin's horoscope is in the coming months, even if his birth time is unknown.  He is capable of acting quickly and will not shy away from a fight.  If there is going to be a war, I think it is more likely to occur in early 2015. That may be the most dangerous time as Uranus conjoins Ketu (South Node) from December 2014 until March 2015.  

Financial Markets Update

Despite the rising risk of war and economic disruption in Europe, stocks inched higher last week.  The Dow closed at 17,098 while in Mumbai the BSE Sensex hit another all-time high of 26,638.  I had expected a little more action in the markets last week given the Mars-Saturn conjunction on August 25th.  As sometimes happens, a multi-planet alignment can coincide with gains even if malefics like Mars and Saturn are prominent.  Monday and Tuesday saw Mars align with Saturn but also with Uranus, Mercury and Venus.  The alignment reminds me of a famous five planet alignment that occurred on 24 August 1987 -- the very day the US market made a high after a long six-year rally. Less than two months later, the biggest crash in history took place that saw 25% of the value of stocks erased in a single day.  Only time will tell if last week's alignment will have a similar historical importance.  While I do not foresee an imminent crash, I still think the current planetary alignment is hostile to further gains. 

The planets this week offer a mixed bag.  There could be some early week strength as Venus enters Leo on Monday.  Wednesday's Sun-Jupiter alignment may also bring about some optimism.  The late week is more troubled as Mars enters Scorpio, however.  Underneath it all, Saturn is moving closer to its alignment with Rahu (North Node) so there is a rising risk here.  Even if stocks manage to stay aloft this week, there should be some turbulence quite soon. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hillary Clinton's difficult summer

(18 August 2014) It's been a tough summer for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.   The former first lady and Secretary of State published a political memoir that met with tepid reviews and poor book sales.   Many commentators saw it as thinly-veiled political ploy designed to boost her profile before her formal declaration for the race to the Democratic nominee for President for the 2016 election.  Her subsequent book tour did little to improve the the book's reception as Ms. Clinton tried in vain to deflect criticism.  Then in a magazine interview two weeks ago, she was openly critical of Obama and distanced herself from him over his handling of the Middle East and Syria in particular.  She was forced to awkwardly walk back her comments in order to appear less confrontational towards the Obama White House.  These missteps have seen her popularity fall 10% in the past two months although she remains the overwhelming favorite to be the nominee of the Democratic Party. 

We can see that Hillary Clinton has been suffering from a bout of "Saturnitis" for much of the summer.  The Saturn station in late July was just one degree off her natal Venus.  Saturn-Venus transits are often times when life feels like it is contracting rather than expanding.  Our social circles also come under pressure as joy and happiness are harder to come by. Saturn isn't all bad -- no planet is -- but there are two important factors that made this particular transit conjunction worse.  First, it was the station of Saturn to her Venus.  Stations last for weeks and describe extended periods where we are feeling heavy or slowed down.  Saturn was within range for her Venus back in June and is still conjunct Venus at 23 degrees of Libra even now, some two months later.  For most people, a little Saturn gives structure, responsibility and maybe some worthwhile life lessons.  But a Saturn transit that lasts not for days but for weeks can reflect major obstacles and setbacks that can throw us off our game.  Saturn will finally move off her Venus in the next week or two so that bodes well for her.

The other problem with this Saturn transit is that it wasn't just Venus that suffered.  Ms. Clinton also had her Mars-Pluto conjunction at 20-21 Cancer closely aspected by Saturn during this time.  While this aspect was still a couple of degree off exact, it was close enough to cause problems.  An afflicted Mars-Pluto can indicate exercises of power that do not end well or may go against you.  This is what happened to Hillary following her comments on Obama's foreign policy.  The Saturn aspect would also raise the likelihood of frustration, especially in matters pertaining to the 10th house such as career and status.  It makes a lot of sense that Hillary would suffer more than her fair share of problems and hassles during this Saturn transit.  These difficult Saturn transits suggest that she did not expect to have this kind of fallout from her comments. 

Hillary's fortunes will likely improve further as Jupiter moves closer to its conjunction with Mars, Pluto and then Saturn this fall.   Jupiter stations exactly on her 10th house Saturn in December so that may be a particularly noteworthy and positive time.  I should note that her birth time remains in question but I am using the 8.00 a.m. chart for now.  Since I'm not sure it's correct, I tend to give less emphasis to time-dependent factors like house placements and rulerships and more on simpler planet-to-planet transits and progressions which are contingent only on her date of birth. 

Transiting Jupiter will remain in Cancer and her probable 10th house for the first half of 2015.   This would be an ideal time for her to declare her candidacy for President.  Usually Presidential candidacies are declared in the January or February of the year before the election.  Hillary could declare as early as December at the time of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction but she likely won't lose anything by waiting for early 2015 since Jupiter will still be in a powerful position in her chart.  I think her chances of winning the nomination are very good indeed, as is her chances to be the next President.  I hope discuss the race in greater detail in the coming months once we have a better idea of the other candidates.

Financial Markets Update

Stocks generally moved higher last week on easing geopolitical tensions and mostly positive macro economic data.  In New York, the Dow climbed about 1% finishing at 16,662 while the Indian Sensex jumped 3% to 26,103.  I had been fairly neutral last week although I noted the likelihood of gains in the second half of the week on the approaching Venus-Jupiter conjunction.  Indeed, stocks were mostly bullish after some early week indecision.

We could see a little more upside this week as the Venus-Jupiter conjunction is exact on Monday.  Tuesday's Mercury-Neptune opposition is more problematic so that could offset some or all of any preceding gains.  The rest of the week may be increasingly choppy and even jittery as Mars gets closer to its big conjunction with Saturn on next Monday the 25th.  Gains are still conceivable here but we could see intraday volatility increase.