Sunday, November 30, 2014

Oil prices plunge as OPEC maintains production levels

(30 November 2014)  Crude oil prices plunged last week after OPEC decided not to cut production in an effort to reduce global supply.  WTI crude oil declined 13% on Friday and finished near $66 a barrel.  Saudi-led OPEC has now entered a price war with the US and other non-traditional oil producers in an attempt to push higher cost shale oil out of the marketplace in order to return OPEC to its previously dominant position.   With the advent of shale oil, the US is now poised to become the world's leading producer of oil once again.

This collapse of oil prices culminates a six-month decline that began back in June when crude was still well above $100.  Unfortunately, there is no easy or simple astrological explanation for Friday's crash although we can make a few general observations. 

Saturn entered Scorpio on November 1st and thereby may have put added pressure on oil.  The logic is this: since Scorpio is a water sign and Saturn is generally negative, liquids such as oil may be more apt to suffer in some way.  As an added burden, we can see that Mars had entered Capricorn two days before the oil crash.   Capricorn is a sign ruled by Saturn so Mars' sudden and problematic energy (it is a malefic, after all) would be funneled to Saturn through its sign ownership.   This would therefore make Saturn's occupancy of water Scorpio even more damaging for liquids such as oil.

We may also note the difficult 45 degree alignment between Saturn and Pluto and the 135 degree alignment with Uranus which would likely depress oil prices, although that is not specific to Friday's patterns but rather to the late November period in general.  Saturn is the traditional planetary significator for oil since it rules minerals and other things taken from the ground.  Therefore, these kinds of afflictions involving Pluto and Uranus would be more likely to push prices lower during the time of the closest alignment of angles which were multiples of 15 degrees.

The horoscope of the crude oil futures (30 March 1983 9.30 a.m. EST) offers a few more clues.  The chart shows that transiting Saturn (3 Scorpio) is only just past the exact 8th house aspect (210 degrees) from malefic Mars (2 Aries).  This was exact in the previous week but it is close enough still to partially link it to this sudden decline.  Mars (0 Capricorn) is just one degree past the equal 8th house cusp at 29 Sagittarius.  To put it simply: Mars is a bad planet and the 8th is a bad house.  Mars is probably the most appropriate planetary energy for accounting for a shocking decline of this type.  These are additional pieces of evidence that does fit with the larger decline we have seen in November in addition to Friday's market reaction to the OPEC decision.  

On the other hand, Jupiter is still close to stationing just one degree away from the equal 3rd house cusp so one would think some upside is still possible in the near term.  Full disclosure: I did not predict Friday's decline in my newsletter.  While I did correctly forecast lower prices through much of November, I thought that crude would begin to rebound last week.  Clearly, that was incorrect although we may yet see a rebound here, albeit from a much lower level.  One would think that as Saturn moves away from the Mars aspect and Jupiter approaches its station on December 8, oil prices should recover somewhat. 

Financial Markets Update

Stocks generally moved higher last week despite the crude oil decline as inflation expectations diminished.  In the US, the Dow finished slightly higher at 17,828 while the Indian Sensex closed at another all-time high of 28,693.  The ongoing rally is not hugely surprising given the approach of the Jupiter station in early December.  Jupiter is more powerful when it is stationary in the sky and a powerful Jupiter usually indicates a time of optimism and rising stock prices.

This week looks a bit mixed due to the Mars-Saturn alignment early in the week.  Some negativity is more likely from these two planets.  But Venus then aligns with Jupiter by midweek so one would think that augurs fairly well for stocks. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Stocks hit new record highs on ECB easing

(23 November 2014)  Global stock markets marched higher last week as the European Central Bank announced it was expanding its program to buy asset-backed securities.  Taking a page from the Fed's quantitative easing playbook, the program is designed to boost growth (and inflation) in Europe as that continent struggles to avoid a triple-dip recession.  In New York, the Dow gained 1% on the week closing at a new all-time record high of 17,810.  Not surprisingly, the German DAX soared more than 5% on the ECB action although it remains below its all-time highs.  India's Sensex also gained on the week rising 1% to 28,334 which was also another all-time high.

In previous posts, I suggested that risk was rising in November due to the exit of Venus and Saturn from the sign of Libra.  Both of these planets tend to do well in Libra and hence they could seen as planetary indicators for positive market sentiment.  Saturn exited Libra and entered Scorpio on 1 November while Venus followed close behind on 13 November.  And yet most markets around the world have continued to rise despite this apparently more negative planetary environment.  Why?

The short answer is that collective market sentiment is based on the placement and condition of all nine planets of the solar system -- and probably many more yet undiscovered.  I have noted that Jupiter's situation is quite positive here as it transits through its sign of exaltation in sidereal Cancer.  Jupiter is the planet of optimism and its transit through this sign should be seen as a plus for markets.  Whether or not this positive factor will be decisive in determining market direction is a more difficult question.  To be sure, market values change as the conditions of the planets change.  We saw a perfect example of this when Venus transited through sidereal Virgo in late September and early October.  Virgo is known as the sign where Venus is debilitated and hence this would tend to be bad for sentiment.  Stocks indeed declined for that four-week period and then rebounded very strongly afterwards as Venus entered Libra -- a much more friendly environment. 

The problem of financial astrology is that weighing the relative importance of all the planets is only one part of the equation.  Another important factor is understanding how the current placement of the planets interact with the relevant horoscopes of the major stock exchanges of the world.  I have previously mentioned that the upcoming Jupiter station on December 8 could be significant for a couple of reasons.  First, Jupiter was changing its direction from forwards to backwards and these planetary stations can coincide with market movements.  But the Jupiter station occurs at 28 Cancer which forms an exact 120-degree angle with the Moon of the NYSE horoscope.  This is quite a positive alignment and is obviously one reason why US markets have continued to rise.  But the question then becomes what happens after the 8th when Jupiter begins to retreat from that position?

Interestingly, the horoscope of the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) also puts this upcoming Jupiter station into focus.  The chart has a rising degree (Ascendant) of 29 Scorpio.  Thus, the Jupiter station at 28 Cancer is just one degree from a very supportive 120-degree trine aspect.  We can also see that the Jupiter station also aligns with natal Mercury (28 Virgo), natal Jupiter (28 Libra), and natal Neptune (27 Sagittarius) and Uranus (29 Sagittarius).  While other factors are involved here, the ongoing Jupiter aspect to this Ascendant and the other planets is one reason why the Indian market has extended its post-election rally to new all-time highs.  But again we have to ask: what happens after Dec 8 and Jupiter starts to back away from this exact aspect with the Ascendant? 

On the face of it, we should think that the Jupiter effect on this chart will begin to diminish.   Jupiter will remain in close alignment for another week or two after its station but it will slowly separate from it. Without this positive factor, one would think that the Indian market will be less likely to rise and indeed could be more susceptible to declines.  This is likely also true for US and other markets.  It will be interesting to see how this Jupiter station in December manifestson the financial markets.

This week features a number of short term aspects.  The early week looks a little bearish as Mars aspects Jupiter.  But the midweek Venus alignment with Uranus and Pluto could bring some relief.  Mars changes signs this week as it moves from Sagittarius to Capricorn later in the week.  This could be an added burden on sentiment. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

GOP takes control of Senate in US midterms

(10 November 2014)  Not surprisingly, the Republicans earned a solid win in last week's US midterm elections as the voting public delivered a stinging rebuke to President Obama and the Democrats.  The GOP now controls the Senate and House and will likely further hamper Obama's ability to implement his policies.  The GOP gains were fairly clearly seen through the horoscopes of the key players as Obama's chart continues to be weighed down by a stationary Rahu (North Lunar Node) and while the planets looked better for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  As I noted in a previous post, however, I think that McConnell will suffer some kind of major setback in early 2015 which could seriously diminish his leadership.  I'm not sure what form it will take, but it is likely to involve significant disappointment for GOP. 

The planets are looking increasingly tense this week and next.  There are a couple of near-simultaneous patterns which may foretell some noteworthy developments in the world scene.  First, both Venus and the Sun make their annual conjunction with Saturn in the coming days.  This is not inherently positive nor negative but rather simply brings forward the qualities of Saturn.  We may therefore see notions of authority and government highlighted in some way as their Saturnian role is brought into relief through events.  Authorities like predictability and control so there may be renewed efforts in that direction against the impulse towards freedom and self-realization.  The protest situation in Hong Kong may see new developments, for example.  The upcoming APEC summit is another possible manifestation of this Saturn energy as governments in the Pacific region seek to boost economic growth and enhance domestic security in the face of rising terror risk throughout the world. 

But the potential problem here is that this Sun-Venus-Saturn conjunction takes place in Scorpio.  Scorpio is traditionally ruled by Mars, a malefic planet that is associated with sudden actions, often without regard to consequences.  Mars is the planet of war and violence, although it is also connected with courage, assertiveness and executive action.  At the moment, Mars is in the middle of a very difficult alignment with Pluto, Uranus and Ketu (South Lunar Node).   Mars (action, energy) conjoins Pluto (power, coercion) early this week and then squares Uranus (rebellion, independence) later in the week.  In fact, Mars can be seen as triggering that long-standing square aspect between Pluto and Uranus that has been in effect for the past two years.  This is not a good pattern.  Next week, Mars will move on to square Ketu and therefore we could see more sudden reactions to Saturn's desire for regulation and control. 

To be sure, some of the potential tension of this Saturn and Mars energy could be offset by the fact that Jupiter is still exalted here in Cancer as it approaches its station in early December. But it seems hard to imagine that this pattern will not produce something of note. 

Financial Markets Update

This tense planetary pattern is also more likely to bring some turbulence in financial markets.  The Mars-Pluto-Uranus alignment has been identified as one that increases the probability of stock market declines.  The researcher Thomas Rieder noted that any time Mars conjoined an outer planet (Jupiter and beyond) while in hard aspect to another outer planet, markets were much more likely to fall in the days and weeks after the alignment became exact.  His research only showed a partial correlation so it is still possible that no decline may take place.  Nonetheless, the combined influence of this Mars alignment with Saturn in Scorpio should be reason to be cautious.  Mars conjoins Pluto on Monday and then squares Uranus on Wednesday and Thursday. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Stocks rise as Bank of Japan takes QE baton from Fed

(2 November 2014)  For anyone who owns stocks these days, it is surely comforting to know that no matter what, there is a central bank somewhere in the world that's got your back.  Just two days after the U.S. Federal Reserve announced that it would end its QE bond buying program on Wednesday, the Bank of Japan revealed that it would undertake its own massive QE-style program designed to boost inflation, depreciate the Yen and prop up the stock market. Quantitative Easing (QE) is the modern equivalent of the printing press, a monetary tool long-used to try to boost sagging economic growth, usually after a period of policy failures and excessive borrowing.  

The Fed's QE program has played a key part in the US economic recovery and caused a tripling of the stock market since 2009.  We may also humbly suggest that it has increased inequality in the US as the Wall St. wealthy have disproportionately enjoyed the fruits of Janet Yellen's largesse while Main Street has suffered wage stagnation.  The paradoxical assumption of QE is that stagnation brought about by excessive debt can be miraculously cured by issuing more debt as central banks assume the role of the lender of last resort.  Most people realize this insane scheme will eventually fall apart and the lenders will have to be repaid.   But then again it may make political sense to postpone an economic collapse as much as possible so that elites are given time to best position themselves.

Financial markets cheered this fresh injection of liquidity as it freed up investment capital to chase riskier assets like stocks.  Tokyo stocks soared 5% on the news, while other markets enjoyed significant gains.  It was perhaps a fitting end to the month of October which has seen many stock markets around the world rebound from lows as Venus exited the difficult sign of Virgo and entered the friendlier confines of Libra on 18 October.  Venus will continue its transit of Libra until 12 November. 

Does this mean that stocks will continue to rise until 12 November?  The short answer is not necessarily, although the presence of a stronger Venus is definitely helpful for investor sentiment all other things being equal.  Other factors also have to be taken into consideration such as planetary aspects and also the geometric alignments within the main stock exchange horoscopes.  The fact that gold fell sharply last week to new lows for the year at $1170 was proof that there is more to price trends than simple planetary sign placement.  A strong Venus is typically good for gold but this was trumped, I would argue, by ongoing afflictions to the key natal horoscope for gold which I have noted in previous posts. 

An equally important factor may well be that Saturn has now entered sidereal Scorpio as of Saturday 1 November.  For the past two and a half years, Saturn has been transiting the sign of Libra, a sign where it is said to be exalted.  This exalted status of Saturn allows for its more positive qualities to come forth such as pragmatism, obligation and respect for large institutions.  Although Saturn is often considered a bearish planet where it comes to the stock market, its more favourable placement in Libra since early 2012 may be one reason why many stock markets (e.g. India, USA) have climbed to new all-time highs.   But Saturn's new environment in Scorpio may be less constructive as Saturn is said to do poorly in this Mars-ruled sign.  This is not to suggest that markets are doomed to fall immediately here in November.  Saturn's transit of Scorpio lasts some thirty months and therefore we could see some of its ill-effects spread out over this length of time.   It's worth noting that the last time Saturn was in Scorpio, the US stock market suffered its worst crash ever in 1987.  I would expect a similar crash-type event to occur at some point between now and 2017.

A quick look at the chart of the New York Stock Exchange shows how the current placement of Saturn is increasingly negative but may well be offset by a similarly positive placement of Jupiter.  Transiting Saturn now opposes both Mercury and the Sun in this chart and this tends to be bearish for stock prices.  On the other hand, Jupiter (26 Cancer) is exalted and now forms a very nice trine aspect to the natal Moon (28 Pisces) in this chart.   Just how these two opposing influences may end up affecting the stock market is unclear in the short term although one would think that the ease of recent gains may no longer be forthcoming.  But it seems likely that stocks may have greater difficulty staying aloft once Jupiter turns retrograde on 8 December at 28 Cancer and begins to move away from its close aspect with the natal Moon. 

Financial Markets Update

Some negativity is more likely this week on Tuesday's Mercury-Saturn alignment.  With Saturn having just entered Scorpio, there may be some renewed sense of caution.  And with the US midterm elections scheduled for the same day, perhaps the political outcome will somehow rankle investors.  Friday's Mars-Saturn angle also suggests an increase in anxiety.