Sunday, January 26, 2014

Global stocks fall sharply on Argentine devaluation

(26 January 2014)  US and European stocks plunged Friday on worries of a possible emerging markets meltdown following the surprise devaluation of the beleaguered Argentine Peso.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its worst week in months losing more than 3% and closing below 16,000.  Indian stocks fared better as encouraging domestic data continued to fuel optimism.  Although the Sensex did get caught up in Friday's global downdraft, it closed modestly higher for the week at 21,133. 

The extent of Friday's decline was somewhat surprising, although I did expect negativity to manifest in the second half of the week given the Mercury-Mars aspect.  The first half was more positive as I thought the effects of the approaching Venus direct station opposite bullish Jupiter would likely put a floor under stocks.  The somewhat different outcomes in Asia vs. US/Europe is partially attributable to the specific natal charts in question.  The chart of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) was not clearly under pressure by the bad aspects this week. 

However, the NYSE chart was much more afflicted due to the aspect between transiting Mars and the natal Moon.  In addition, transiting Ketu (South Lunar Node) is closing in on its conjunction with natal Saturn.  This is a potential source of instability in US markets in the coming weeks since Ketu moves quite slowly.  This means that Ketu's destabilizing influence on Saturn could spell some rough waters ahead. 

We can see similar problems emerging in the Frankfurt DAX chart which is the main stock exchange for Germany.  Transiting Saturn is in the 4th house as it slows down ahead of its retrograde station on 2 March.  It will station at 29 Libra -- very close to the exact equal 4th house cusp at 25 Libra.  Saturn in the 4th house is usually unhelpful although it lasts a long time so it tends to express its negativity only periodically.  We can see that Friday's big decline occurred as transiting Mars and Mercury lined up in aspect with the Ascendant and with natal Mercury.  Mars was the critical factor is creating the conditions for a decline in this instance. 

The nodes are also in play here as transiting Ketu is gradually forming a close trine aspect to the natal Saturn-Uranus conjunction at 4-5 Sagittarius.  This aspect will be exact in early March so that is one indication that the financial markets could be entering a period of volatility in the coming weeks.  To be sure, Jupiter is very much in the mix in the DAX horoscope since it is conjunct the Sun.  That is usually a very bullish influence that fuels optimism.  Given the presence of both positive and negative influences in this chart, it may mean that markets will fluctuate widely and sharply in both directions in the coming weeks.  However, my sense is Saturn may end up trumping Jupiter here.  That would be increase downside risk for the time being.

This week again seems somewhat divided down the middle.  The early week may bring some optimism as the Moon conjoins Venus and thus may tease out more of that positive buying energy.  But things could change by midweek as Mars aligns with Saturn.   Both of these malefic planets are slowing ahead of their respective stations, so the aspect's effect could linger for several days.  This may be felt more strongly in the Indian market.  I would not assume an overly negative stance, however, since the Venus station on Friday still offers some reservoir of hope.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gas prices fall: how low can they go?

(19 January 2014)  Gasoline prices are continuing to fall in most places as the market adjusts to a glut of oil on the market.   Although crude oil bounced a little higher last week closing at $94 for West Texas Intermediate, the price trend has been mostly down ever since the Syrian Crisis met with a negotiated conclusion in the fall.  This is one critical factor in the reduction of the usual Middle East geopolitical price premium.  Actually, there is a world surplus of oil now as the US has continuously increased its domestic production through the introduction of shale oil.  More recently, the emerging prospect of a nuclear treaty with Iran means that the US will likely lift the embargo on Iranian oil thus increasing the world's supply by up to five million barrels a day with the stroke of a pen.

Some analysts suggest that the price of crude could continue to fall to $80 or below in the near term as long as there are no sudden changes in the supply-demand balance.  But just how realistic is this forecast of $80 crude oil?  Based on my reading of the Crude Oil Futures horoscope, I would say that $80 is very possible over the next 1-2 months.  While it is often difficult to translate planetary positions into specific percentages of price movement, there does seem to be some significant planetary affliction in this chart which indicates lower prices ahead. 

As we can see in the chart, the main culprit here is Saturn. Transiting Saturn sits at 27 degrees of sidereal Libra deep in the 6th house of this chart.  This is usually a placement that is accompanied by difficulty, obstacles and setbacks.  In the world of financial markets, Saturn is the planet most associated with price declines.  The 6th house is a dussthana house, and is considered somewhat negative in its effects.  As Saturn moves closer to the equal cusp of the 6th house at 29 degrees of Libra, the burden of Saturn may even increase.  This is one reason why further declines are probably more likely than a sudden rally, for example. 

The other problem in the current transit picture is that transiting Rahu (North Lunar Node) at 9 Libra is exactly conjunct the Moon-Saturn conjunction in the natal chart.  Rahu is a natural malefic but it doesn't always produce negative outcomes.  In this case, however, it is somewhat more likely to coincide with difficult situations since it is conjoining another natural malefic planet -- Saturn.  Rahu usually coincides with unstable situations marked by confusion and distortion.  In this case, the Rahu influence also looks negative. 

Jupiter is one possible source of rising prices but it is not forming a close transit aspect to any planet at the moment.  It could give a partial lift to prices through minor square aspects to Mercury or the Sun.  But this would seem to be no match for the direct hits from both Saturn and Rahu on this chart.  

While the Rahu transit moves off Moon-Saturn quite soon, the Saturn transit will last all the way until early March.  Saturn will turn retrograde on March 2nd on the exact degree of the 6th house cusp.  This will likely be a burden on oil market sentiment and could depress prices until that time.   In addition, Mars will station on March 1st close to Rahu and both will be quite close to the natal Pluto in the Futures chart.  They will also form a close opposition to natal Mars.  This is probably another negative influence in the chart that will manifest in late February and early March.

As I said, it is difficult to correlate planetary motion with actual real world prices.  And yet given the strength of these two negative influences, it seems possible, at least, that crude oil could drop from its current $94 down to $80.  Therefore. it does look like gas prices at the pumps will continue to fall for a while yet.

In other financial markets, stocks were mixed again last week as positive earnings reports offset fears of a possible slowdown in the US economy. The Dow inched higher to 16,459.  In Mumbai, stocks climbed on data that showed slowing inflation and the possibility of an interest rate cut from the RBI.   The BSE Sensex once again finished above 21,000.  I had been fairly equivocal about markets last week given the mixture of astrological influences in play.  The midweek Mars-Venus aspect did not really translate into any clear pullback.  Meanwhile, the Mercury influence early in the week seemed to broadly coincide with gains across the board. 

This week sees Venus move a little closer to its opposition with Jupiter and conjunction with Pluto.  It is hard to see stocks reacting very negatively to this configuration.  Mostly, this is a positive alignment that should correspond with optimism, buying and higher prices.  Some tension may arise later in the week perhaps on the Mercury-Mars aspect and the Moon-Rahu conjunction.  As a result, we could see some modest declines later.  Whether or not they will be enough to offset the favorable effects of Venus and Jupiter remains to be seen. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Edward Snowden receives support from NYT

(12 January 2014)  Things are looking up for the former NSA employee Edward Snowden. The ex-intelligence analyst received support from The New York Times as its editorial of January 1 called for clemency in his case in light of his contribution to the preservation of individual privacy in the internet age.  This week the EU Parliament asked Snowden to testify via video in its investigation into US surveillance practices.  Snowden has been a polarizing figure since he revealed the extent to which the NSA was spying on its own citizens without proper legal oversight or controls. 

Although he considers himself a whistle-blower of illegal government actions, Snowden has been a fugitive from the US justice system since his daring flight from his home in Hawaii back in May 2013.  The Obama administration and many officials on both sides of the political spectrum consider him a traitor for having leaked state secrets.  However, he has become something of a folk hero amongst both right leaning libertarians and left leaning progressives for unmasking the full extent to which citizens are subjected to illegal cyber-surveillance.  Over the course of the past months, each new revelation of unwarranted NSA intrusion into the private lives of citizens has gradually shifted public opinion towards the need for greater privacy and stricter oversight of the US security apparatus.  This, in turn, has boosted Snowden's reputation as a legitimate whistle-blower.

We can see how the motion of the planets reflect the recent improvement in Snowden's reputation.  As is often case, good things happen when Jupiter is in the mix.  On January 1, transiting Jupiter was located at 22 Gemini thus forming a very close trine (120 degree) aspect with the natal Moon at 19 Libra.  Jupiter symbolizes rewards, achievement and abundance while the Moon represents the emotional self and the public face. Snowden's Moon is situated in the 6th house of opponents and conflict, so this aspect from Jupiter to the 6th house Moon is a very nice representation of some kind public victory over opponents.  When you have members of both political parties calling for your imprisonment, it is usually good to have the influential New York Times on your side. 

The significance of the editorial is underlined by the unusually high number of planetary aspects to his Ascendant.  We can see that the Sun-Pluto conjunction at 17 Sagittarius sits almost exactly on his equal 8th house cusp (secrets, obstacles) while Mars is at 17 degrees of Taurus on the exact 5th house cusp (intelligence, authorship).  Together, this transit hits suggest some event that involves his secret or scandalous authorship.  These exact hits to his Ascendant are not completely free of tension, especially in light of the activation of the 8th house which can represent some difficult situations. I believe the 8th house is symbolically in keeping with the nature of the ongoing Snowden controversy and scandal.   But it is the presence of Jupiter's aspect to the Moon that brings everything together and produces a positive result for him.   The EU testimony request this past week not as a suspect but as an expert witness can be seen in a better light as Jupiter (20 Gemini) had moved even closer to its aspect to the Moon.  Suddenly, Edward Snowden is a respected authority on US surveillance for the rest of the world.

Snowden has a very appropriate horoscope for someone who earns his living with computers.  Mercury rises on the Ascendant and is in opposition aspect to Jupiter and Uranus in the 7th house.  Mercury represents intelligence and the rational mind and is closely identified with writing and analyzing.  Jupiter tends to enhance Mercury's intelligence while Uranus speeds up the mind and gives it a special affinity for innovation and novelty, particularly involving computers and science.  Mercury-Uranus aspects are often found in the charts of people who "think different". 

But in addition to his obvious computer skills and high intelligence, Snowden is skeptical about the intentions of authority and his government.  Where is this in the chart?  Part of it may come from the Uranus influence on Mercury and the Ascendant since the more problematic opposition aspect can sometimes indicate an innate sense of rebelliousness and the need for independence.  This aspect may make keeping quiet and simply "doing one's duty" more difficult. 

The other anti-authority impulse likely comes from the Sun-Mars-Rahu conjunction in Gemini in the 2nd house.   Any close aspect with Rahu tends to create "distortions" or instability in the planets affected.  Sun-Rahu people can therefore have problems with authority whether it be difficult relations with their fathers, with bosses, or indeed with their governments.  The additional presence of Mars in this conjunction makes his need for action and freedom that much more urgent and possibly impulsive.  Mars-Rahu people act quickly, often without thinking.  They are quite determined and focused in their actions but they may not necessarily think things out.  Many people wondered about Snowden's flight from the US in 2013 since he went first to Hong Kong, China and then Russia -- two countries who are on less than friendly terms with the US.  Potentially consorting with the enemy raised more questions about Snowden's intentions and made it easier for the "traitor" label to stick.  

We can also see that the Sun-Mars-Rahu conjunction is opposite Neptune.  This introduces an element of confusion and deception into his anti-authority stance.  There may be several ways of interpreting this, however.  It may represent his achievement as a whistle blower/advocate for privacy (Mars) who exposed (Rahu) government (Sun) secret spying (Neptune).  But less charitably, it may reveal something may be amiss in Snowden's own mental make-up since Neptune has a way of undermining the planets it aspects.  His motives may be more complex than we have been led to believe.  And even he may be confused about his ultimate goals and purpose.   Mars-Neptune aspects are commonly found in people who are deceitful or who are victimized by others who are deceitful.   The presence of the nodes Rahu and Ketu there only increase that potential for difficulty.  I would not make a value judgment on Snowden one way or the other since it is possible that the Neptune effect could reflect the fact that he may eventually be captured and tried for treason. That would be very much in keeping with the symbolism of Mars and Neptune, with a little bit of Rahu and the Sun thrown in.  The fact that his Moon is relatively strong and unafflicted in Libra suggests that he is sincere and perhaps less prone to some of those more negative Neptunian self-deception scenarios. 

Edward Snowden may come under renewed stress in the coming weeks, however.  While Jupiter will station at 16 Gemini which is in fairly close aspect to his Moon, on March 1 Mars will station quite close to his Saturn-Pluto conjunction in early Libra.  Transiting Rahu will also be very close by at 5 Libra in early March.  This Mars-Rahu conjunction is often found in situations that are high energy, high-stress and may require Snowden to think and act quickly.  Fortunately, his Saturn is exalted in Libra, so there is some chance he will be able to deal with the double assault from these transiting malefics.  However, transiting Saturn will be stationing in close square to his MC/IC (i.e. unequal 4th house cusp).  This is often a difficult pattern that characterizes situations where are aspirations are disappointed in some way.  It may also be linked to removals and relocation since the 4th house of home is involved.   Overall, the pattern does not look good for Snowden.  He may be put on the defensive in late February or early March.  Perhaps there will be new charges laid against him.  Or he will be forced to leave Russia.  It is hard to say.   At very least, there will likely be some important new developments in his life.

Financial Markets Update

Meanwhile, financial markets were mixed last week as the US jobs report showed a disappointing December data.  US markets were mostly flat while Indian stocks retreated modestly on inflation worries.  I had been fairly non-committal about the planets last week although the prominence of Saturn suggested that a gain was unlikely.

This week may revolve around the midweek Mars-Venus square aspect.  This looks like a fairly negative influence that could take stocks lower.  The early week Mercury-Rahu looks somewhat more positive, as does the late week Mercury-Uranus aspect.  The overall direction is therefore harder to say.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Is China's bubble about to burst?

(5 January 2014)  The financial focus shifted to China last week as the release of weak economic data renewed worries that the world's economic engine might be entering rougher waters.  In addition to indications of slowing growth, there is growing concern about China's banking sector which is apparently knee-deep in bad loans and seemingly bottomless government stimulus. Like its Western counterparts, China responded to the 2008 financial meltdown by pumping billions into the economy in an effort to boost demand.  While there has been an impressive rebound in growth, there are more fears that the resulting recovery is just another bubble that is not sustainable and not based in real economic activity.  Real estate values are still near record levels, but many of the newly constructed condos and malls remain empty.  This is what happens when money costs almost nothing to borrow and government will always be there to cover any losses.  Maybe someone in the People's Bank of China should learn about the US Savings and Loan debacle in the 1980s.

The condition of the horoscope of China offers some hints about the current state of the economy.  When reading national charts, economic well-being usually occurs when 1) there is an absence of afflictions from slow moving malefics (Saturn, Rahu/Ketu, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) to key planets like Moon (mood), Sun (vitality) and Venus (wealth, happiness); and 2) when the 1st, 2nd and 11th houses and their lords are well aspected by benefics like Jupiter.  A quick look at the chart and we can see that there is some stressful influences at work here.  Transiting Saturn (26 Libra) is conjunct Venus in the 10th house.  Venus is a natural significator for any matters relating to national happiness so that includes wealth, assets and money.  Saturn will remained conjoined with Venus for the next several months as it approaches its retrograde station at 29 Libra in early March and then goes backward over that point later in the spring.

The Saturn influence here tends to be depressing and restricting and therefore we should look at this Venus affliction as one negative factor in the overall economic picture for China in the coming months.  In addition, Saturn casts its full-strength 10th house square aspect to Mars (21 Cancer) throughout the current period as Saturn transits late Libra.  Mars is lord of the 11th house of gains and income (Scorpio) and therefore Saturn's influence here may be another burden on economic activity.  Of course, Mars symbolizes several other things unrelated to the economy such as military activity so the Saturn affliction may also make some kind of violent or military activity more likely during the course of its transiting aspect during the first half of 2014. 

On the positive side of the ledger, transiting Jupiter (21 Gemini) aspects Venus by trine but this is now moving away as Jupiter is retrograde.  Jupiter may provide another boost for national income in the spring when it returns to forward motion and forms a closer aspect with Venus.  Even then, I suspect it will not be positive enough to offset the ongoing Saturn affliction.  We should therefore look at the transit picture as essentially negative for the Chinese economy for much of 2014.  Transiting Saturn will station at 22 Libra and therefore form a very close aspect to 11th lord Mars in June.  This may be a time when there are more tangible manifestations of economic uncertainty.

We can also speculate on the effects of the opposition aspect from Uranus (14 Pisces) to the Sun (14 Virgo).  While the Sun rules the 8th house, it is still the dispositor of Saturn which does rule the 1st (nation as a whole) and 2nd (wealth) houses.  The Sun therefore may have an indirect influence on the economy.  In addition, the Sun symbolizes government and when it is under stress, the government is more likely to be forced to react to changing circumstances.  Uranus-Sun aspects are often associated with times of major changes and disruption to the status quo.  Uranus stationed direct in this degree a few weeks ago so it is doubly powerful.  The Uranus influence may be partially related to the some of the reforms announced in November which aim to reduce the role of state industries as well as relaxing the one-child policy.  There may well be other changes afoot with this aspect in the coming weeks.  While they may not have a direct economic impact, they are likely to reflect a more unstable situation in China which may unnerve some investors. 

There is the likelihood that China will undergo another period of slowdown once transiting Saturn enters Scorpio and thereby afflicts both the 11th house of income by conjunction in 2015 as well as the 1st and 2nd lord natal Saturn (20 Leo) by square aspect in 2016.  The Uranus-Pluto square will be closely activating the natal Mercury-Neptune-Ketu in this chart and thus serving to further undermine stability.

Underneath the transits lies the current dasha set up.  China is running the Saturn-Mars dasha period.  Saturn has been very kind to China thus far, probably since Saturn is quite well placed in the natal chart.  Although tucked away in the 8th house in Leo, it receives a close aspect from Jupiter.  Saturn is also the lord of the 1st house so that grants it considerable strength.  Finally, it is disposited by a well-placed Sun which is in the 9th house of good fortune and conjunct benefic Mercury in its own sign of Virgo.  Mars looks less favourable, however, as it is debilitated in Cancer and conjunct Pluto.  This may be one reason why China has been somewhat more assertive in its foreign policy recently, such as in its dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.  Mars is significantly bolstered, however, since it is disposited by the Moon which is very strong in the 1st house near the Ascendant.  With Mars in this mixed condition, I would think the economy may not suffer unduly during the Saturn-Mars dasha. 

The Saturn-Rahu dasha begins in May 2014 and lasts until 2017.  Rahu is well-placed in the 3rd house of determination and courage.  Like all malefics, Rahu tends to do well in the 3rd house which is an upachaya or growing house.  Rahu receives the aspects from the Sun, Mercury and Neptune.  The Mercury aspect is helpful, but the ones from the Sun and Neptune may be more problematic.  It makes more sense to describe these aspects as having mixed effects.  Rahu is disposited by Jupiter which is in the 12th house of loss.  This is another factor which may diminish the positive effects of Rahu's house placement.  The bottom line here is that the dasha influences do not look particularly helpful.  In some ways, they are rather damaged, although I would never base any analysis on dasha periods alone.  Nonetheless, this dasha analysis suggests a more ambiguous picture of economic growth at best.

Last week's financial markets reacted negatively to the data out of China.  US markets slipped a bit while Indian stocks suffered larger losses as domestic data also pointed to more slowing ahead.  While I had expected some declines were likely on the unusually dense series of Mars aspects, the negativity was fairly muted.   Apparently, the world remains enamoured with the rosy economic forecasts of the Federal Reserve.

This week could see some optimism around the early week Mercury-Venus conjunction.  Both of these planets are benefic by nature and when they blend their energies, there is often a rise in stocks and other speculative assets.  That said, the conjunction takes place in fairly close proximity to an aspect from bearish Saturn.  This may mitigate the optimism or even completely reverse it.  The late week features both Venus and Sun under that Saturn aspect.  This looks more conducive to caution than with buying. In other words, there are no certain planetary signals this week, although the prominence of Saturn here may mean that prudence will prevail.