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.