Sunday, May 25, 2014

Coup in Thailand: Endgame for Thaksin?

(25 May 2014)  Democracy in Thailand took a step backward last week as the military launched its 12th successful coup since 1932, the year that marked the end of the absolute monarchy in what was then Siam.  The coup attempted to restore order in Bangkok following a period of protests and violent unrest against the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister (and proxy) of the exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.   The coup is the latest move in an ongoing struggle between the populist Thaksin and his mostly rural and working class supporters and the royalist elites and their middle class supporters centered around the capital Bangkok.  Since first becoming PM in 2001, Thaksin and his surrogates have won the largest majorities in the history of Thai democracy but have been widely criticized for corruption, human rights violations and censorship of the media.  Under the leadership of General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the military junta is generally regarded as favoring the monarchy and traditional elites and is hostile to Thaksin's new-style authoritarian populism.  The military's promise to reform the constitution before new elections may be seen as a warning against the Thaksin regime.

In a previous article from early February, I had suggested that a coup was more likely to occur in June and July around the Saturn-Uranus alignment which activated a key planet in the 1932 chart of Thailand.  This prediction was somewhat off the mark in terms of timing (the coup happened on May 22 -- just two days after Mars stationed direct), although we can see from the chart just how close that Saturn-Uranus alignment is to Mercury (21 Gemini).  Mercury is doubly important in this chart because it is the chart ruler (Lagnesh) since Gemini rises. 

In addition, the disruptive effects of the Moon's nodes are very much in play with this coup as transiting Rahu (4 Libra) is closely aspecting the Ascendant at 1 Gemini through its 120 degree trine aspect.  Rahu (North Node) is a natural malefic and is often prominent in situations where the status quo is upset. That is very much the case here as the Yingluck government had been in power since 2011 but over the past six months had lost its ability to govern as the protests persisted and the Supreme Court eventually ruled against it.   My original prediction focused on the timing of the exact trine aspect of Rahu to the Ascendant in June and July.  The three degree orb is still very much within allowable limits so we have to assume that Rahu definitely had a hand in the coup. 

What's next for Thailand?    There is already resistance to the coup in Bangkok as supporters of the Yingluck government and pro-democracy activists have staged small protests designed to test the military's resolve.  Astrologically, I would think we could see this kind of ongoing popular opposition for some time to come.  Late June in particular may be an important time as Mars (conflict) opposes Uranus (change) both align with that aforementioned Mercury.  This appears to be a sharp rise in violence and harm although it is very unlikely to damage or unseat the junta.  The added problem here is that the tense and conflictual Mars-Uranus opposition will be imprinted in the June 24th Solar Return chart of the 1932 horoscope.  This is another reason why we should expect more unrest and violence throughout the next 12 months at least. 

More immediately, I would expect Thailand to remain unstable and volatile well into July as Mars will conjoin Rahu at 0 degrees of Libra exactly opposite the natal Uranus.  That looks like a sudden and shocking attack of violence.  Unlike previous coups which saw a quick return to peace and civil order in Thailand, this one looks shakier as if protests and unrest will continue in spite of the show of force.  As some Thai editorial writers have suggested, there is the real chance that the coup will actually make things worse rather than better.

The larger question is where all this leaves Thaksin Shinawatra.  The exiled telecommunications billionaire has tried to rule Thailand in absentia through his sister Yingluck.  Since he was deposed in a coup in 2006, the chess game between old and new elites has continued apace, with each side vying for advantage at every opportunity.  The old royalist elites are in the driver's seat now as Thaksin must be content to sit back and plan his next move.  He will have to wait for electoral reforms to be passed in the coming months (or years) and hope to recast his Pheu Thai party, assuming its principals have not been barred or imprisoned. 

Thaksin's horoscope (July 26, 1949; no time) looks like a mixed bag for 2014.  Late July and early August should be positive as Jupiter and Venus will conjoin his natal Sun-Mercury conjunction.  This suggests advancement of his interests and a fulfillment of his wishes.  But the end of 2014 looks more difficult as transiting Ketu conjoins his Rahu and then transiting Saturn squares his Venus-Saturn combination into early 2015.  This looks quite intense and even pivotal in terms of his ultimate goal of returning to Thailand and again taking the reins of power.  It does not seem positive so he could suffer another setback in that regard.   This could manifest as a banning of his political party in any upcoming election or as a loss of a key ally among the establishment or royal elites. Thaksin's fortunes may well improve in the second half of 2015 and look much better if we look out into 2016 and 2017.  The fugitive exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra may therefore have to be patient and wait for his next move at the political chess board.

Modi to be sworn-in on Monday the 26th

Meanwhile, India's incoming PM Narendra Modi will be sworn-in at 6 p.m. on Monday the 26th.  I hope to post something in greater detail once we know the exact time of the oath-taking but for now I would say that the chart looks quite active and has a strong nodal presence.  Both Rahu and Ketu are prominent in this chart given Ketu's conjunction with Venus and Mercury's aspect from Rahu.  This is perhaps not too surprising since the nodes are seen as harbingers of change which is why Modi was elected.  Deliberative and cautious Saturn will be rising in the Ascendant in Libra, its sign of exaltation, so this may well mark his administration as one given to thoughtful and methodical planning.  The Jupiter aspects suggest that results will be good and economic growth should follow.  However, the Moon is somewhat distressed by the aspect from Mars so that suggests an uncomfortable level of conflict and rancour.   I will revisit some of these ideas after the swearing-in has been completed and we know the exact time. 

Financial Markets Update

Stock markets generally rose last week as the Fed continued its soothing tones of near-perpetual low rates and economic recovery.  In New York, the Dow climbed more than 100 points finishing at 16,606.  Indian stocks did even better as the post-election rally delivered further gains on hope for substantive economic reforms.  The Sensex rose more than 2% ending the week at 24,693.  While I had been fairly non-committal last week, we did see some declines early in the week around the Mars direct station just as I had suggested.  I had also forecast a greater likelihood of gains in the second half of the week which also largely came to pass.

This week could see some early week gains around the Venus-Mercury-Ketu alignment.  Wednesday's Sun-Neptune square looks more difficult, however, especially in the US.  It is hard to say if stocks can continue their winning ways here since Jupiter is now separating from its aspect with Saturn, the last Jupiter aspect in a series that began in February.  This could diminish collective optimism and leave financial markets in a more vulnerable condition.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Understanding China's stock market boom and bust

(11 May 2014)  Readers of this site will know that one of my main areas of astrological interest is the stock market.  While I find economics and investments inherently interesting, stock prices provide a continuous flow of data against which astrological ideas can be measured and evaluated.  The stock market is therefore incredibly useful for an evidence-based astrology where changing planetary alignments can be correlated against the ups and downs in the financial markets.  This is not to say any such correlations are easy or obvious since the potential number of independent variables in terms of planetary positions is almost prohibitively high.   The challenge for financial astrology is to exclude mixed conditions where no clear outcome is suggested and focus instead on the smaller number of high probability planetary scenarios where clearer outcomes are more apparent.

An an illustration of high probability alignments, we can look at the ups and downs of China's stock market.  Since unleashing the free market in 1978 under Deng Xiaoping, China's booming economy has been a key ingredient in global economic growth.  Its economic expansion reached its apex in 2007 just before the financial meltdown.  At that time, the Chinese stock market reached a high of 6000 on the Shanghai Composite Index in October.  Optimism had reached its maximum as domestic and foreign investors had bid up prices on stocks 500% in just the previous two years.  But the meltdown changed all that as stocks crashed through most of 2008.  The Shanghai Composite made a low of just 1700 in November 2008.  While it rallied back up to 3500 in 2009, the Chinese market has had a fairly lackluster performance over the past four years and is now near 2000.  Chinese stocks have not kept pace with the rebound in its economy in part due to restrictive government investment regulations.  This is one reason why some investors have shifted money out of stocks and into the real estate market there.  Whatever the economic explanation for poor stock market performance, we are more interested in whether there a clear astrological correlation for its ongoing bear market. 


There is a good case to made for a simple astrological explanation using secondary progressions.  This is a Western forecasting technique that is useful in accounting for longer term outcomes.  A secondary progression uses a symbolic equivalence of time of planetary motion so that one day is "progressed" to one year of clock time.   We can use the horoscope of the Shanghai Stock Exchange (Dec 19 1990, 9.30 a.m.) to describe the secondary progressed patterns in 2007 when the market hits its all-time high.  The high occurred 17 years after the launch of the exchange (2007 - 1990=17) and thus we refer the position of the planets 17 days after its inception, which was January 5, 1991.  The biwheel chart above shows how this progressed chart from Jan 5 1991 aligns with the natal chart.  Not surprisingly, there are a number of favourable patterns involving natural benefic planets.  Progressed Venus (5 Capricorn) is conjunct progressed Rahu (North Node) (4 Capricorn).  Venus-Rahu alignments tend to be positive, especially in matters involving material things such as money and investments.  One complicating factor was that both planets were 120 degrees away from Mars (4 Taurus).  While Mars is a malefic planet by nature, its aspect with Venus is not full-strength and hence less damaging.

The progressed Sun (20 Sagittarius) had conjoined Neptune in 2007 and this should also be seen as a broadly positive factor in accounting to the rally in Chinese stocks.  The progressed Ascendant (6 Aquarius) was also just past a 30-degree alignment with Venus-Rahu.  This would have been exact the year before in 2006 during the time when stocks were soaring from 1000 to 6000.  Also the progressed Midheaven (MC), the old Latin name for the 10th house cusp, was at 17 Scorpio and thus was in an exact 120 degree aspect with Jupiter (17 Cancer).  So we can see that the two more bullish planets, Venus and Jupiter, were simultaneously aligned with the key progressed angles in the chart, the Ascendant and the Midheaven, at the time when the Shanghai index hit its all-time high. 

If those positive alignments were close to exact at the high point of the market, it stands to reason that their eventual separation would correlate with growing weakness.  Markets tend to fall not only when malefic influences are dominant but also in the wake of positive aspects.  Once all those exact hits were separating, the Chinese market became more vulnerable.   Progressed Venus moved away from Rahu so that left only Rahu in aspect with Mars -- a decidedly negative combination.  

If we fast forward to the current progressed chart, we can see that malefics predominate.  Progressed Saturn (3 Capricorn) is very slowly approaching its conjunction with Rahu (4 Capricorn) while Mars remains at 4 Taurus.  This is a very difficult pattern since all three planets are natural malefics.   Even worse, is that Mercury (3 Sagittarius) is now part of that larger negative alignment.  Although Mercury's more positive effect might be seen as ameliorating the situation, in my experience this is rarely the case when benefics are outnumbered by malefics.  The presence of Mercury with Mars, Saturn and Rahu probably makes things worse.

But the good news is that Mercury may only have to move another one degree (= one more year) to have most of this negativity manifest.  By next year, Mercury will have moved past 4 Sagittarius and thus there is a chance that stocks will begin to rebound.  Saturn will still be close in its alignment with Rahu and Mars of course, but there may be less bearishness.  And we can see that progressed Venus (14 Capricorn) is approaching its aspect with Jupiter (17 Cancer).  This will be exact in 2016 so that offers some evidence that China's stock market is more likely to rebound after 2014.  It likely will not be enough to recapture the enthusiasm of the parabolic rally of 2006-2007 but it may at least provide a break from its bear market doldrums for a while.   The looming progressed Sun-Saturn conjunction is likely to undermine any major rallies, however.  This Sun-Saturn conjunction will be exact in 2020 and will activate Rahu and Mars since neither planet will have moved very far in the progressed chart.  This looks like another low point for the stock market in China.  

Financial Markets Update

US stocks were mostly mixed last week as the market pondered more soft Chinese economic data.  The Dow nonetheless closed at another all-time high at 16,583.  Indian stocks fared better on anticipation of a big BJP win in the Lok Sabha elections.  The Sensex climbed more 2% closing at 22,994.  I thought we might have seen a little more negativity given the growing Mars and Saturn influences but it seems that Jupiter's uplifting effects may well last into its aspect with Saturn on May 24th.  While US blue chips have maintained their lofty levels in the wake of the Jupiter alignment and the Grand Cross in late April, most other stocks have declined.

This week looks more favorable given the late week conjunction of Venus and Uranus.  Venus tends to have a positive effect on sentiment and this is even more likely here given the broader approximate alignment with Jupiter and Pluto.  Wednesday's alignment of the Sun, Moon and Saturn may coincide with some sober second thoughts, however.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The MERS virus arrives in the US: what is the threat?

(4 May 2014)  The US recorded its first case of MERS this week as an Indiana man returning from a visit to Saudi Arabia came down with the mysterious virus and was hospitalized.  He is said to be recovering and out of danger.  MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is a new and deadly virus that has sickened more than 400 people, of whom a quarter have died since 2012.  MERS has similar features to the SARS virus that caused a worldwide travel alert in 2003.  While the MERS virus seems to be inefficiently transmitted and thus has remained fairly contained within Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, its high mortality rate is cause for concern.  But just how much of a threat is MERS?

In a previous article on SARS, I noted how global epidemics may be more likely to occur when the planet Neptune is prominent in some way, either by transit or within the national horoscopes of affected countries.  Although it is not always a malefic influence in our lives, Neptune is the planet most closely associated with disease and weakness.   When Neptune is in a close angular relationship with negative planets such as Saturn or the nodes, Rahu and Ketu, it tends to correlate with problems -- either diseases, floods, or even political scandals.  In addition to disease, Neptune is said to rule liquids and situations of deception and intrigue.  We should also note its more problematic side when it is placed in a negative dussthana house (6,8,12).  In the chart of an individual, a poorly placed Neptune can correspond with chronic disease or weakness.  It also tends to be prominent in the charts of people who abuse drugs and alcohol. 

By way of historic comparison, we can see that Neptune was quite prominent during the SARS outbreak in early 2003 (The above planetary listing is for March 12, 2003 when the WHO issued a worldwide alert).  First, transiting Neptune was sitting almost exactly on the ecliptic, i.e. the horizontal plane of the Sun and the solar system.  In common astrological measurement, Neptune's latitude was +00°01.  Due to Neptune's very slow velocity, Neptune was within two arc minutes of the ecliptic for all of 2003 during the SARS crisis.  This was a very rare event since Neptune only crosses the ecliptic at 00°00 once every 85 years or so.  In fact, the last time Neptune conjoined the ecliptic was in 1918-1919 at the time of the "Spanish Flu" pandemic that killed 50 million people.  Another way of expressing this ecliptic conjunction is that Neptune was transiting near its planetary node at 18 Capricorn.  Like the Moon, each planet has a pair of nodes.  Neptune's north and south nodes are around 18 Cancer and 18 Capricorn.  Whenever Neptune comes close to these points in the sky, we are more likely to see some obvious manifestation of its energy, whether it be an epidemic or flood.

The other thing worth noting about Neptune and the SARS epidemic was that Neptune was afflicted in the New Year's chart for January 1, 2003 at midnight.  Neptune (15 Capricorn) was aspected by both Rahu (14 Taurus) and Saturn (0 Gemini).  Rahu (North Lunar Node) is considered a natural malefic and casts a full strength 120 degree trine aspect.  Rahu-Neptune aspects would tend to bring out the dangerous side of Neptune, especially since Rahu symbolizes unboundedness.  This may have played a role in the inability of health authorities to control the epidemic which spread to many countries outside China including Canada, the US and Australia.  Saturn's 135 degree ("sesquisquare") aspect is not a full strength aspect but it is almost exact and therefore was likely a key part of the SARS puzzle from an astrological perspective.  Traditional Vedic astrologers should note that the 135 degree aspect between two planets in the natal chart produces a conjunction in the D-8 ashtamsa divisional chart.  The D-8 chart is associated with troubles and obstacles, not unlike the 8th house.

The current planetary situation for MERS looks less afflicted.  Neptune is not near its nodes (i.e. the ecliptic) so that should lessen the severity of this outbreak.  However, we can see that Neptune is afflicted in the 2014 New Year's chart.  Neptune (9 Aquarius) comes under the disruptive aspect of Rahu (11 Libra) and Neptune is placed in the 6th house of health and disease.  While the absence of any aspect from Saturn is favourable, Neptune is sitting very close to the equal house cusp of the 6th house not only for this year but for 2015 and likely 2016 as well.  Neptune moves only two degrees per year and where the locational Ascendant is near 15 Virgo, Neptune will have a potentially harmful effect on health.  The Ascendant varies a few degrees from country to country in the New Year's chart in any given year, usually close to mid-Virgo.  

The bottom line here is that the planetary picture suggests that MERS will not be as bad as SARS, nor thankfully, as the 1918 flu.  This is perhaps already evident given its relatively lower profile over the past two years.   Experts may still fear it could mutate into something more easily transmissible but the astrological evidence, such as it is, does not support that view.   However, the persistence of Neptune's placement in the 6th house of the New Year's chart suggests that MERS and perhaps other epidemics will remain a significant concern through 2014.  September and October this year could be times when MERS comes into sharper focus given the partial aspects of Saturn and Rahu to Neptune at that time.  Looking ahead, I would note that Saturn forms a forward square aspect with Neptune late in 2015 and through much of 2016.  This could increase the likelihood of suffering and harm from Neptune-related situations like disease and flood.  Neptune will also be conjoined by Ketu in mid- to late-2016 so that could be a time when humanity is more vulnerable to MERS or some other viral disease or collective illness.

Financial Markets Update

Despite ongoing worries over Ukraine, US stocks moved higher last week on strong earnings reports.  The Dow hit a new all-time high and closed up 1% at 16,512.  Indian stocks slipped on pre-election profit taking with the Sensex ending the week at 22,403.  I had suggested the week would be fairly mixed given the positive and negative short term aspects here. I did wonder what effect, if any, the separating Jupiter-Uranus aspect might have on optimism and stock prices.  So far, we would have to say that there hasn't been much change in the generally sunny disposition of most global investors.  The separation of this Jupiter aspect is a gradual process so we should not be surprised if nothing much happens in the near term.  Over the medium term, however, I would be more skeptical about the ability for stocks to remain at these lofty levels.  Of course, some location conditions such as the Indian election and the probability of a BJP win could temporarily offset any diminution of the bullish Jupiter influence.

This week looks a little more bearish as the Sun lines up against Saturn and Venus begins to oppose Mars.  Both of these pairings look difficult.  Early week gains are possible, however, as the Sun aligns with Jupiter.