Monday, December 15, 2014

Stocks under pressure following oil price crash: 2008 revisited?

(15 December 2014)  Financial markets suffered a sharp decline last week as investors began to weigh the implications of the collapse of oil prices and the possibility of a wider global recession.  The Dow lost more than 3% closing at 17,280 while the Indian Sensex lost almost 4% and finished the week at 27,350.  Most other global markets also declined, with major oil producers like Russia and Canada suffering the biggest hits. 

While cheaper oil may be good news for consumers who have more money to spend on other things, the financial fallout could be more negative as higher cost US producers may go bankrupt.  Large institutional players who may have invested in the energy sector will feel these losses.  This increases the risk of contagion spreading throughout other markets as leveraged investments go bust.  As prices of these oil investments fall, margin calls go out and this forces liquidation of other assets in order to cover for the initial loss.  This creates a chain reaction of selling as the bubble bursts.  This is essentially what happened during the financial meltdown in 2008 and there is some danger here that history could be repeating itself.   Oil prices peaked in the summer of 2008 and then plunged before the stock market crash.  Once the price collapse started, oil speculators were forced sell to cover their losses and this created a contagion effect which spilled over into the stock market.

Interestingly, last week's sell-off correlated very closely with Jupiter turning retrograde (Rx) on Monday December 8th.  Jupiter turns retrograde once a year and begins a four-month backward journey through the night sky.  As the planet most associated with positive sentiment and expansion, the reversal of Jupiter's direction is sometimes connected with market reversals and weakness as the planetary outlet for optimism undergoes a shift in its inherent qualities. 

In previous posts, I had suggested that the chances for decline around this Jupiter Rx phenomenon were greater, especially in the context of this vastly overvalued stock market.  The chart above shows how some previous Jupiter retrograde stations may have correlated with market moves.  To be sure, the correlation is not overly strong or long term in its effects.  The 2013 Jupiter Rx station only manifested as a brief two-week pause in the rally before stocks again climbed higher.  The 2012 Jupiter Rx station seemed to be more closely connected with an interim high after which stocks fell for more than a month. 

So there is some evidence to suggest that the current 2014 Jupiter retrograde station will also produce some kind of correction in most markets although it is unclear how long it could last.  As always, we have to consider other factors that enter into the overall picture.  I discuss these other factors in my weekly financial newsletter.

The planets this week look most potent towards the end of the week when Venus will closely align with Mars, Uranus and Pluto.  This alignment is closest next weekend but we could see some effects on Friday.  Mars is usually bearish but the presence of Venus in the mix means that the outcome is more open-ended.  A larger move is perhaps more likely as an event outcome.   The early week seems more negative (and Asia has opened in the red at the time of writing) as Mercury aligns with Saturn.  The Sun's entry into sidereal Sagittarius on Tuesday could bring a temporary calm to the stock market, however.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Protests against police spread in the US after Garner decision

(8 December 2014)  The nationwide protests over the death of Eric Garner has added yet another chapter in America's historical legacy of slavery, racial tension and civil strife.  Garner died from a chokehold administered by a New York police officer in August while being arrested for selling individual cigarettes on the street.  Despite the presence of video evidence of the police actions during the arrest, the officer was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing by a Grand Jury.  This has sparked protests in New York and across the country as African-Americans voice their anger and frustration over what they feel as unfair treatment by the police and the justice system.   The protests come just a week after rioting in Ferguson, Missouri following a similar non-indictment of a white cop who had killed another unarmed black man.

These kinds of racially-based riots and protests have been a frequent occurrence in the US for over a century.  As an astrologer, I am curious to know if the current race-based unrest can somehow be a reflection of planetary placements in the horoscope of the USA.  There is a short list of possible planetary patterns that could fit the bill.  Violence often implicates Mars in some way, so we could see some affliction there involving malefics.  While the Ferguson protests were violent, we should note they quite small by historical standards compared with the LA riots in 1992 or the riots in 1968.  The Moon represents the people as a whole therefore I would think it more likely that the natal Moon of the USA is similarly under pressure or disturbed by transiting planets such as Saturn, Rahu or Ketu. Any kind of affliction of the Moon would explain a state of upset or unrest which could reflect the current popular mood.  Blacks and whites alike -- especially among the younger people -- are calling for fundamental changes to the justice system. 

The chart of the current transits reveals that the Moon (7 Aquarius) is indeed under some pressure from an approaching Saturn square.   This is not the full-strength 270-degree square Saturn aspect but it is still exerting some influence given how close it is to 90 degrees -- just three degrees short now.  Saturn's influence on the Moon (people) is one source for the sense of unhappiness and frustration over the status quo.  Transiting Neptune (10 Aquarius) is also in close proximity to the Moon but I don't think it's relevant for these protests as Neptune moves only two degrees per year and has been essentially conjunct the Moon since 2012. 

Significantly, natal Mars (0 Gemini) suffers no obvious major transit afflictions.  Transiting Venus was opposite Mars during the protests so that is an appropriate signature for the temporary rise in hostilities as people march in the streets.  Venus-Mars transits in national charts often mark times of enmity as the process of social contact and association (Venus) takes on a more pointed and aggressive manner (Mars).  But this Venus transit only lasts a few days so that is a less important factor in situating these protests in their historical context.  It is one factor that suggests the protests may not last very long. 

The other transit that stands out in this chart is the conjunction of Rahu (North Lunar Node) and Saturn.  Rahu has stationed on the 24th degree of Virgo for many weeks now.  Previously, I wondered if this long transit was significant for explaining the failure of the Democrats to hold onto the Senate since Saturn was placed in the 10th house of status and governing institutions.  Saturn's affliction by Rahu would therefore suggest complaints with the status quo and government which would be bad news for Obama and the Dems.  Indeed, the Democrats too a beating in the midterms as this Rahu influence played out as expected.  This may also be a factor in these current protests as another pillar of government, the justice system, comes under increased scrutiny.

Another possible interpretation of this ongoing Rahu-Saturn conjunction is that it reflects frustration within the black community itself.  Traditionally, Saturn is the planet that represents the poor and marginalized in society.  This transit by Rahu may therefore be seen in terms of creating unrest and unease within that poorer and disenfranchised segment of American society.  In this sense, the Rahu-Saturn conjunction has two different dimensions.  First, through Saturn's placement in the 10th house of government and second, as Saturn's main significations of the poor and oppressed.  Both of these areas would therefore likely be activated through this long and difficult conjunction with a stationary Rahu.  Rahu (27 Virgo) was only three degrees away from Saturn (24 Virgo) at the time of the first Ferguson riot in August and may well have reflected the sense of injustice and anger that boiled over at the time of the death of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson.

As transiting Rahu gradually moves away from Saturn in the coming weeks, we are more likely to see a return to normal.  That said, Saturn will tighten its alignment with the Moon so some sense of frustration, unease, and even disappointment with US ideals of justice may continue.  I would also note that Mars will again be activated in mid-December.  Both Mercury and the Sun will oppose the natal Mars at this time while transiting Mars will move into a conjunction with natal Ketu (15 Capricorn) around the same time.   Some short-lived violent outbursts are therefore more likely in mid-December.

It is worth comparing the current chart with that of previous racially-motivated riots.  In recent history, the Rodney King LA riots in 1992 stand out as the most culturally significant.  The transit chart shows a familiar pattern.  The nodes are in close aspect with the Moon (and the Ascendant).  Transiting Ketu (8 Sagittarius) formed a very close 120 degree trine aspect with the Moon during these riots.  This is a typical pattern that reflect the population in a state of agitation and unrest. 

Interestingly, Saturn is in a close 120 degree alignment with its natal position.  While this is not a conventional Saturn aspect, it is nonetheless an alignment that highlights the prominence of Saturn at that time.  In my books, it still counts as a Saturn influence.  As I suggested, Saturn can be seen as a planet of the poor and marginalized, which in the US is disproportionately comprised of African-Americans. Transiting Mars (1 Pisces) is also highlighted here as it closely squares natal Mars (0 Gemini).  This is the kind of necessary triggering transit one would expect from a major riot which produced the greatest riot-related property loss in US history.

There was a large number of race riots in the 1960s but the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 stand out as particularly violent and deeply felt by the nation.  Washington, DC was the focal point as the rioting came within two blocks of the White House and it was only a huge military deployment that prevented a larger tragedy. 

Here again, we see natal Saturn under major pressure through its conjunction with transiting Ketu (South Node) and a Saturn opposition. The assassination may well have been another instance where both dimensions of Saturn in the USA chart were activated.  The affliction to its 10th house placement called into question institutional legitimacy while the affliction to Saturn itself was the expression of frustration of the poor, black underclass whose interests Dr. King had championed.  

Mars again may have acted as the fast-moving trigger planet as it squared Rahu in the 8th house.   On a broader note, we can suggest the 1960s in America were more violent generally due to the ongoing square transits of Uranus and Pluto to the natal Mars.   These transits would have lasted for most of the decade and may have lowered the transit threshold needed from other planets to spark physical manifestations of other afflictions such as Saturn or the nodes.  If slow-moving outer planets do most of the heavy lifting, then there is less need for the faster moving planets to step in to fill the bill.

Financial Markets Update

Meanwhile, stocks were mixed last week as the US jobs report was stronger than expected and gave investors another reason to buy.  The Dow pushed to a new record at 17,958 while the Indian Sensex pulled back a bit to 28,458 as the RBI kept interest rates unchanged.  As expected, the early week Mars-Saturn alignment correlated with some (modest) declines while the Venus-Jupiter aspect on Wednesday and Thursday saw stocks recover. 

This week again features some problematic short term aspects in the first half of the week as the Sun and Mercury conjoin while in close aspect with Ketu (South Lunar Node).  At the same time, Jupiter finally turns retrograde on Monday in New York.  This may not have any immediate effects but it is one of those planetary stations that can prove to be significant in the longer term scheme of things.  The late week Mercury-Jupiter aspect offers the prospect for more gains.