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.