Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tensions rise in Ukraine as Putin weighs his options

(26 April 2014)  The Ukraine Crisis remained front and center last week as Russian troops massed on its eastern border while NATO beefed up its military presence in nearby Poland.  Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be ignoring diplomatic efforts and Western economic sanctions aimed at defusing the situation as the world is entering a new and dangerous Cold War 2.0.  Putin seems unwilling to accept the new pro-Western government in Kiev and is giving aid to pro-Russian factions in Eastern Ukraine.  If Russia sends its army into Ukraine, it would mark a new phase in the crisis which will send shock waves throughout the world. 

As I have written previously, the current Mars retrograde cycle is one possible culprit for this geopolitical impatience and brinksmanship.  Mars turned retrograde back on March 1st and will culminate its backwards journey through the sky on May 20th.  Mars retrograde may be less about the implications of the backward direction of the red, warrior planet than its velocity.  When a planet is retrograde, it is moving more slowly than normal.  As a rule, slower moving planets have more energy and become more prominent in their effects.  It is not too surprising that this slow moving Mars is correlating to a greater sense of conflict and an inability to compromise. 

This is even more the case, perhaps, because we see that Mars is moving through the sign of sidereal Virgo which is key in the horoscope of Vladimir Putin. Putin was born with four planets in Virgo including the Sun, the planetary seat of the ego.  As Mars is due to remain in the sign of Virgo until June, it seems less likely that Putin will be in favour of compromise.  Remember, too, that Putin's Sun is closely conjunct Saturn, the planet of control.  Putin's Sun (20 Virgo) has been highlighted by the Grand Cross alignment at 19 degrees so it is perhaps not too surprising that he is under a lot of stress at the moment.   With his Sun exactly opposite transiting Uranus and exactly square Pluto, he is more prone to sudden actions, unconventional behaviour, and intense coercive situations.   While he may appear to be playing the strongman to Obama's more cautious reactive approach, this planetary pattern does not seem favourable to him.  Putin's Mars-Sun aspect encourages vitality and the expression of energy but the Uranus influence may push him towards unpredictable actions.  In more peaceable individuals, the Mars aspect could manifest as initiative directed towards constructive change.  In more stubborn Sun-Saturn individuals like Putin, however, Mars may be activating his need to make decisions on his own to protect his narrow interests. 

We can consult the horoscope of Ukraine for further clues about whether Russia will invade. As I have noted previously, Ukraine's revolution in February occurred just as transiting Saturn formed a near-exact square alignment with the Moon.  As the crisis has unfolded over the past two months, Mars has moved back through Virgo and has thereby aspected the North Node, Rahu, through its square aspect.  This is a very apt aspect for an ongoing situation that is marked with instability and violence.  During the course of the Mars retrograde cycle, Ukraine has seen its province of Crimea taken over by Russia as well as ongoing unrest in eastern cities like Donetsk.  The other key affliction here is that Ketu, the South Node, is in tight trine aspect with the stellium in early Leo, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and the Sun.  Ketu is a tricky influence at the best of times but it is in Aries here, which is ruled by Mars and Mars, of course, is too strong by virtue of its retrograde motion and destabilized by its opposition with Uranus.  That is a fairly problematic chain of significations for Ketu and hence its aspect to those four Leo planets is one big reason why the crisis is not abating.

I am expecting the crisis to reach its peak tension in mid-May just before Mars returns to direct motion.  Mars is due to station direct at 15 Virgo on 19-20 May.  This will form an exact square aspect to the Ascendant (15 Sagittarius) as well as Uranus (16 Sagittarius).  Mars will be at its maximum intensity at this time so we should expect for an increase in the conflict and a probable rise in violence.  This is another piece of evidence that argues for the crisis to get worse before it gets better.  I would think an invasion by Russia becomes more likely given this very exact Mars-to-Ascendant aspect. 

Financial Markets Update

Despite the saber-rattling in Russia, markets were mostly flat last week as positive earnings reports kept buyers interested.  The Dow edged lower closing at 16,361 while the Indian Sensex moved slightly higher to 22,688.  The midweek Grand Cross alignment did not live up to its hype as markets did not move much.  While I thought this pattern could be significant, I was not convinced that we were going to see any big developments.  This skeptical view turned out to be correct as we only saw weakness come into the stock market in the late week. 

Interestingly, we are now on the leeward side of the Jupiter aspects to Uranus and Pluto as the Grand Cross begins to separate.  While these planetary alignments may not be reliable enough to set your watch to, they are useful barometers for general trends in sentiment.  When Jupiter forms a close angle with one or more of the outer planets, then markets tend to rise.  When it moves past the angle, markets become more tentative.  We are now entering into a post-Jupiter aspect phase now so there may be less bullish optimism available for investors to tap into. 

Aside from the possible diminishing influence of Jupiter, this week looks a bit mixed.  Venus enters Pisces on Sunday and Mercury aligns with Jupiter early in the week so we could see some upside.  However, we should note that Mars aligns with the Sun also during the week so that could coincide with more uncertainty and some downside.  It will be an informative test of the residual strength of post-Jupiter alignment this week.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

US stocks sell-off ahead of Lunar Eclipse

(13 April 2014)  Stocks were mostly lower last week as weak data out of China and Japan suggested the global economy may be slowing.  The technology sector led US stocks lower as the the Dow lost more than 2% closing near the 16,000 level.  The Indian market fared better on optimism on the growing likelihood of a Modi election win.  The Sensex touched a new all-time weekly closing high at 22,628.  This largely bearish outcome was somewhat surprising as I thought we might have seen more strength later in the week on the Mercury-Venus aspect.  Monday was negative across the board as the Sun-Mars aspect fulfilled its bearish promise and then we began to see Mercury and Venus take hold after that.  But the late week sell-off appeared to foreshadow the coming of a more difficult Mars influence (see below).

I had also thought that stocks would likely remain fairly firm here in the first half of April as the Jupiter-Uranus-Pluto aspect becomes exact on April 20th.  This is a fairly reliable bullish influence and is the main planetary reason for the rally in Q1 2014 and the current lofty levels of most stock markets worldwide.  Despite, the recent pullback, stocks ARE very high and many observers are talking about a possible bubble and the necessity of a correction.  Admittedly, we have seen some erosion in stocks a little ahead of schedule.  This is a good reminder that the sky is not laid out as digitally as we would like and that interpreting planetary influences has more in common with economic modeling than Newtonian physics.  The former has to do with conscious human behaviour while the other deals with more predictable inanimate matter.  

Things are getting interesting now that we move into the second half of April.  Not only is the positive Jupiter-Uranus energy likely to wane once its aspect moves past, but we are now entering the eclipse period from April 15th to 29th.  Eclipses tend to introduce more instability and uncertainty into human affairs and are therefore more commonly connected with trend reversals in the stock market.  That said, they are not high probability factors for a reversal and usually need to be part of a larger matrix of destabilizing planetary placements.  Tuesday's Lunar Eclipse looks fairly benign actually as it occurs at 1 Libra and lacks any tense aspects with other planets.  There are other aspects which do look problematic, however, (e.g. Mars opposite Mercury) so it is still worth watching.  The Solar Eclipse is due on April 29th and will occur at 14 degrees of Aries.  This may be more problematic due to the retrograde condition of Aries' dispositor Mars. 

Perhaps more important is the upcoming Grand Cross pattern on April 22-23.  This is an extremely rare pattern where four planets (Mars, Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto) are each separated by a square aspect of 90 degrees.  The square aspect is considered tense and is more associated with difficulty and declines.  This particular Grand Cross is noteworthy because it is so exact -- each square aspect is exact by less than 20 minutes of arc (each degree contains 60 arc minutes).  The picture is more complicated because bullish Jupiter is present in this alignment with bearish Mars.  Which energy will prevail?  Uranus and Pluto are usually neutral and take on whatever energy is predominant in the aspect.  But with the overall valence of the alignment uncertain, it is unclear just what, if anything, will happen around those dates of exactitude.  The history of astrology is full of seemingly perfect alignments that didn't produce much of anything in the way of clear results.  Therefore, we should be cautious about over-hyping the Grand Cross here, especially as regards to financial markets.  I would put it this way: the chances for a significant move is increased with this pattern but it is not what I would call probable.  I would not be surprised if nothing much happened out of the ordinary.  And yet with Mars still retrograde until May 19th, the current financial mood looks mediocre at best.  The lack of a strong Jupiter in the coming days means the market may become more vulnerable to declines.

This week offers a real mix of aspects.  Tuesday's eclipse is made more tense due to the close Mars-Mercury opposition aspect.  This is likely to produce some negativity during the midweek period.  It is possible that we could see some more optimism beforehand on Monday's Mercury-Uranus conjunction but this may be fleeting.  Thursday's Venus-Jupiter aspect is similarly bullish in its bias although it may be difficult to offset the effects of the eclipse and the Mars aspects.   It should be an interesting week! 


Sunday, April 6, 2014

India goes to the polls

(6 April 2014)  Voting in the world's biggest democracy begins tomorrow as India goes to the polls to elect a new government.  The BJP-led NDA alliance is well ahead in recent polls so it is seems likely that Narendra Modi will be the next Prime Minister after the final results are announced on May 16th.  There is still some doubt if the NDA will have the required 272 seats for a majority in the Lok Sabha or if other parties will have to be coaxed into joining any BJP government.

As I noted in this space last week, the astrological influences are broadly favourable to a Modi and BJP victory.  Of course, without clearly established birth times for either Modi or Congress candidate Rahul Gandhi it is more difficult to make a categorical prediction of the outcome.  Various birth times have been suggested for both candidates, but thus far none has emerged as definitive or accurate.  For this reason, we need to use whatever auxiliary means to provide supporting evidence for forecasting the outcome. 

The chart of India may be useful in this respect.  In the course of my research into political astrology, I have found that a change in governing parties is more likely whenever there is a clear affliction to 1) the Sun; 2) the 10th house cusps (equal and unequal), or 3) the 10th house sign lord.   The 10th house symbolizes government, while the Sun is typically associated with leaders and government.  By affliction, I mean a close aspect (usually less than two degrees) from malefics Saturn, Rahu, Ketu, or the outer planets -- Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.  The greater the number of afflicting planets, the more likely the change in governing parties and the more historically significant the change in government direction (e.g. a shift from left to far right). 

We can see how the charts of previous major changes in government have followed these rules.  The Desai-led Janata Party victory in 1977 was the first non-Congress government since independence.  We can see that transiting Saturn (16 Cancer) was conjunct natal Saturn (10th house sign lord) at 20 Cancer.  Transiting Ketu (0 Aries) was closely trine (120 degrees) to the Sun (28 Cancer) thus representing a second level of affliction to the sitting government.  Finally, the unequal 10th house cusp at 21 Capricorn was aligned with both Neptune (22 Scorpio) and Pluto (19 Virgo).  Outer planets do not move very quickly -- just a few degrees per year -- so I take any multiple of 30 degrees as significant in this regard.  These aspects from Neptune and Pluto therefore also applied to 10th house lord Saturn. 

Congress returned to power in May 2004 with a Singh-led government following the defeat of the BJP.  Here, too, we can spot the key afflictions.  Transiting Neptune was exactly conjunct the unequal 10th house cusp at 21 Capricorn.  Neptune therefore also exactly opposed the 10th house lord, Saturn.  In its negative form, Neptune's primary mode of action is through weakening or dissolving the subject in question.  Transiting Pluto (27 Scorpio) was almost exactly trine the Sun (28 Cancer) reflecting a major change in government.

Turning our attention to the current situation, we can see that the government-related factors in India's chart are under considerable affliction.  First and foremost, transiting Saturn (28 Libra) is now in a close square to the Sun (28 Cancer).  This has been ongoing for the past few months due to Saturn's retrograde cycle which has elongated this transit contact.  While Saturn continues to move backwards in the sky, it will still be within less than three degrees of an exact aspect from 25 Libra when the results are announced on 16 May.  When Saturn ends its retrograde cycle in July at 22 Libra, it will be in a close square aspect with the unequal 10th house cusp at 21 Capricorn. 

We can see another major affliction to the 10th house lord Saturn (20 Cancer) from transiting Uranus at 21 Pisces -- a 120 degree trine aspect.  Actually, this is a double affliction since the unequal 10th house cusp sits at 20 Capricorn and thus Uranus aligns also with that point within just one degree of a 60 degree sextile aspect.  Uranus is typically involved in situations of rapid change and instability.  Transiting Pluto (19 Sagittarius) is also part of this alignment with Saturn and the unequal 10th house cusp as it aligns very closely to both.  Pluto is also associated with change although it tends to be more thoroughgoing and often times more forceful.  It can also be slow and deliberate.  Given that both transiting Uranus and Pluto are active in the India chart suggests that the nature of the government changeover will be multi-faceted and historically significant.  Indeed, the general expectation is that the incoming Modi administration will press ahead with fundamental free market reforms of the Indian economy.  These new policies will be aimed at eliminating the statist hangovers from the early post-independence period. 

We can also note that the supporting presence of both Venus (21 Pisces) and Mercury (21 Taurus) in this larger alignment on May 16.  These fast-moving planets should be seen as auspicious midwives of the major changes that will likely come to India during the next NDA government.

The bottom line here is that the horoscope of India offers more evidence for a BJP-NDA victory.  Moreover, the extent of the various planetary afflictions suggests that Mr. Modi will likely form the next government without significant delay or complication.

Financial Markets Update

Stocks were mixed last week as the lackluster US jobs report undermined gains from earlier in the week. The Dow finished higher at 16,412.  Indian stocks were mostly flat absent any new cues ahead of the first round of voting.  The Sensex closed at 22,359.  I thought we would see some early week gains on the Sun-Uranus conjunction and that was largely the case in the US and Europe.  While generally bullish here on the ongoing Jupiter-Uranus aspect, this neutral outcome for the week was basically in line with expectations. 

This week could see some early week turbulence around the Sun-Mars opposition.  This aspect is exact on Tuesday but could depress sentiment somewhat for the first half of the week.  The second half of the week should be more positive on the Mercury-Venus alignment.  Overall, I would be surprised to see stocks finish the week too far from their current levels.