Monday, January 26, 2015

Anti-austerity Syriza romps to victory in Greece

(26 January 2015)  Yesterday's election in Greece of the anti-austerity Syriza Party opens a new and uncertain chapter in European politics.  The new PM Alexis Tsipras has vowed to renegotiate the EU bailout agreements and end the harsh austerity policies that has seen the GDP of his country fall by more than 30% over the past four years.  While both sides have avoided sounding publicly intransigent thus far, it is unclear how Tsipras will manage to walk the tightrope between increasing public spending and therefore incurring yet more debt and keeping his European paymasters happy who understandably want their loans paid back.

Financial markets are keenly watching developments in Greece as there is a greater risk to the Eurozone as a whole if Greece should decide to default on its loans or if it leaves the EU.  Neither of these extreme scenarios looks likely at this point, as the collective risk to all financial actors likely outweighs the potential upside to one side or the other.  And yet we shouldn't be surprised by anything that might happen here.  The Syriza victory is now been seen as a lightning rod to popular opposition to EU elites and status quo capitalism as a whole.  The popular movement against the EU could conceivably evolve into something much bigger than a simple election win of leftist party in the periphery in the Eurozone.

So what kind of government might Syriza be?  The horoscope for the swearing-in of Alexis Tsipras provides a window on this question.  Tsipras was sworn-in at 4.07 p.m. in Athens today as Uranus and Ketu (South Lunar Node) were high in the sky in the 10th house.  This is a pretty classic signature for a government that seeks change and wants to shakes things up.  Uranus is the planet of independence and innovation while Ketu erases boundaries and transcends the status quo.   The 10th house represents goals and ambitions and that is more or less what Syriza wants: to end the rule of capitalist elites in Brussels and Berlin.  

Gemini rises in the 1st house and suggests a government that emphasizes communication and frequent interaction with interested stake holders.  Gemini is ruled by Mercury (20 Capricorn), and it is placed in the 8th house with the Sun.  The 8th house rules research and innovation so this is another clue that the Syriza government will not shrink from its desire to promote a genuinely new agenda for Greece.  This is definitely not a chart of a government that wants to play by the rules and adhere to traditions! 

The extent to which Tsipras will be successful in achieving these aims gets a nice boost from Jupiter's 2nd house placement.  Jupiter in the 2nd house of economy and wealth generally speaks well of economic matters.  One wonders if it may also indicate a tendency towards inflation (and devaluation) since Jupiter seeks to expand whatever areas it is associated with (money).    Jupiter also aspects Mercury and Sun in the 8th house, so that is another sign that the incoming government will likely make some tangible progress in its innovative efforts to rewrite Greece's obligations in the EU.

On the downside, however, Mercury is closely aspected by Rahu (18 Virgo).  Like Ketu, Rahu is also an agent for change and undermining the status quo.  But Rahu's influence here on Mercury (and a retrograde Mercury at that) looks disruptive, to the point of perhaps indicating unreliability.   Jupiter's influence can combat this Rahu affliction to some extent, but I think there is a good chance that Syriza's desire to have its cake and eat it too could create a credibility problem over time.  Most skeptical observers likely already expect something like this to happen, but it is interesting to see how this possible tendency towards capriciousness and unpredictability can be seen in the chart.  Rahu in the 4th house is also closely afflicted by Mars which also suggests some inherent instability in the government. 

Even with these problems, I have to say that the chart is better than I thought it would be.  While their anti-austerity program is a rational response to sharply falling living standards, my sense was the the Syriza party had an unrealistic, utopian vision and thus the government wouldn't be able to get anything done and wouldn't last.  This may not be the case, however.  It may be somewhat unstable and changeable in its behaviour, but it may last longer than some of its skeptics think.

In terms of possible future developments, I would focus on the June to August 2015 period when Saturn stations direct at 4 Scorpio.  Saturn will square the natal Venus in this chart and quincunx the Moon simultaneously.  This should be a very stressful and unhappy situation for the government.  The Moon and Venus symbolize well-being and economic health so their double affliction by Saturn may mean a serious economic problem which again limits public spending.  This could be the time when the honeymoon is over for PM Tsipras and he discovers that the EU are not willing to indulge him indefinitely. 

A larger affliction seems to occur in the summer of 2016.  Transiting Ketu will conjoin Mars while Saturn squares up against that same Mars.  This looks more serious and could result is a major setback for the government, such as a possible exit from the Eurozone and/or debt default which could threaten the viability of the government itself.

Weekly Financial Markets Update

Stocks moved generally higher last week as the ECB's Mario Draghi finally launched his QE stimulus program.  The Dow rose by 1% on the news of more than a $1 Trillion of fresh money sloshing around Europe while India's markets cheered the news even more loudly as stocks rose 4%.  On the whole, this outcome was not surprising as I had generally expected a larger QE program which would be bullish for stocks.  The Euro fell as expected on the news and is now trading at 1.12.  Parity with the US Dollar now seems increasingly likely.

The planets this week tilt bearish as Mars aligns with Mercury, Rahu, Uranus and Pluto at various times in the week.  That's a lot of Mars energy for markets to contend with.  It usually means sudden or hasty decisions are more commonly undertaken when anxiety trumps optimism.   There is really a lot going on in the sky this week so we could see some major movements here.  The late week is no less interesting as the Sun conjoins Mercury while Venus squares Saturn.  Neither is especially positive. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Swiss abandon peg to falling Euro

(18 January 2015)  Investors got another bone to nervously chew on last week as the Swiss National Bank (SNB) abruptly removed the cap on the value of the Swiss Franc relative to the Euro which had been in place since 2011.  In recent months, this cap on the value of the Franc had come under increasing pressure as the Euro had lost 15% of its value.  With the ECB expected to launch its own QE program this week, the cap on the Swissie's value would increasingly distort the Swiss economy as speculators would take advantage of the undervalued Franc and bid up local stocks and real estate to bubble-like levels.  The SNB announcement of the decoupling sent shock waves through financial markets as the Franc shot up 20% in just one hour.  The Euro naturally continued its slide as it fell another 3% and ended the week at 1.15 against the US Dollar.

None of this current slide comes as a surprise as I have been forecasting a major decline in the Euro in my newsletter over the past couple of years.  In my posts on this website, I have also alluded to the probability of a sharp decline and possible re-organization of the Eurozone starting in 2014.   The horoscope of the Euro (Jan 1 1999 at midnight) reveals several layers of affliction for the 2014-2016 period which made this current situation quite predictable. 

The dasha periods are a starting point for grasping this affliction.  The Euro entered the Rahu major dasha period back in 2002.  Rahu is a changeable influence which can coincide with both big gains and huge losses.  Rahu's placement in the 11th house (gains) of the Euro chart is helpful as Rahu usually does well there.  However, it is weak in the last degree of Cancer and is not really in the center of the house where it is strongest.  In fact, you can even make a case that this Rahu might have some 12th house characteristics since it is just 6-7 degrees from the equal 12th house cusp.  Rahu in the 12th is a difficult placement and would tend to produce losses and greater disruption over the duration of its period. The Rahu period lasts until 2020. 

The minor dasha periods also reflect the trajectory and current weakness of the Euro.  Note how the Euro rose under Rahu-Jupiter from 2004 to 2007 and then fell sharply in the meltdown in 2008 during Rahu-Saturn.  Jupiter is a benefic planet and is well-placed in the chart in the 6th house while Saturn is badly placed in the 8th house in its sign of debilitation.  The rebound of the Euro more recently occurred under Rahu-Mercury.  The Euro crisis in 2012 occurred just before the Rahu-Ketu period, a classic combination of malefics that usually mark stressful and uncertain situations.  While we should note that the Euro actually rose during this period, it was not on very solid footing.

Since 2013, the Euro has been in the Rahu-Venus dasha period.  Since Venus is a good planet, one would think that it ought to do well from 2013 until 2016.  But a closer look at the situation of Venus in the chart reveals the problem: it is tightly squared by Saturn.  It's 5th house placement is a plus but the Saturn influence is bad news and I suspect the conjunction with Neptune also doesn't help matters either for the Venus minor dasha period.  The Euro did appreciate in value in 2013 and early 2014 but it has fallen on hard times in the past six months.  My general expectation is that it is unlikely to recover its previous levels (1.40) during this Venus minor period.  Venus is just too afflicted. 

Dashas aren't the whole story as transits and progressions also enter into the equation.  Currently, transiting Saturn (8 Scorpio) is in the 3rd house in Scorpio and is fairly close to the equal cusp at 5 Scorpio.  That's usually a negative influence. Saturn also casts its full strength 3rd house aspect (i.e. sextile/60 degrees) onto Venus, which is the minor dasha lord.  This is another clear minus for the current period.  Saturn is due to station at 10 Scorpio in March which may be far enough away from Venus and the 3rd house cusp to boost the Euro around that time.  However, Saturn will then turn retrograde and station direct at 4 Scorpio in early August.  This will be very close to an exact aspect with Venus and even closer to the cusp of the 3rd house.  That kind of transit setup seems likely to coincide with new problems in the Eurozone which could even mark a new crisis and a further decline in its value.

Weekly Financial Markets Update

Stocks were generally weaker in the US and Europe last week as worries over growth continued to erode confidence.  Despite a strong finish to the week on Friday, the Dow lost 1% and closed at 17,737.  The mood was more upbeat in India as a surprise rate cut from the RBI saw a late week surge.  The Sensex rose almost 3% finishing at 28,121.  I had been agnostic about last week given the wide range of apparently powerful influences in play.  I thought we might have got more midweek gains on the Mercury-Venus pattern but these only really appeared on Thursday in Asia and then on Friday in the US.  I thought the late week Mars-Saturn aspect would have created more downside but this clearly was not the case.

All eyes will be on the Mario Draghi and the ECB on Thursday as he is widely expected to announce a QE program of debt purchases in order to entice more capital into riskier asset classes which ought to (theoretically!) generate more economic growth.  The question for investors will be how big the program will be.  A Trillion Euros is one figure that is getting tossed around as satisfactory so anything less could spark a decline in stocks.  Anything that size or bigger would likely be more positive for the markets.  

The planets on Thursday are complicated.  Venus enters sidereal Aquarius that day so that is often connected with optimism and rising stocks.  However, the Sun comes under the exact aspect of Saturn that same day and this is usually more negative.  Saturn's influence tends to be cautious and conservative so it is also possible that Draghi will be reluctant to announce anything too radical.  So we have a mixture of influences here.  I think the Euro chart suggests further downside so that ought to translate into a large QE program which would be bullish for stocks.  It will be interesting to see how these diverse influences play out.  Western markets still look to be on shaky ground for a little while longer since Jupiter won't be making any major angles with other planets until February. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Islamist terror attack in France reignites debate on Western values

(11 January 2015)  France is reeling from its worst terrorist attack in decades after an assault on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday in Paris.  The murder of a dozen leading journalists of the magazine was perpetrated by three radical Islamists who had taken offense at the magazine's depictions of Mohammed.  The attack has once again highlighted the problem of Muslim immigration in France, who now comprise 10% of the population.  Muslims have typically not assimilated very easily into French society and the resulting disaffection has made them more susceptible to appeals from radical groups.  

The popular response to the killings has been overwhelming in France and around the world, as citizens stand up for freedom of the press and against fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. While this massive outpouring of support for Western values may be inspiring, there is uncertainty about what the future will hold.  As anti-immigration political parties gather strength throughout Europe, one wonders how France and other countries will be able to manage the often difficult balancing act between respect for its traditions and openness.and tolerance towards newcomers and their cultures. 

The current astrological influences provide a compelling backdrop to these events.  There are several candidates for the horoscope of France, but the one that may work best is the day the republic was proclaimed following the removal of King Louis XVI on 21 September 1792 at the height of the French Revolution.  Following Occam's razor, the best explanations are the simplest ones so we should be able to see some clear clues in the transit picture.  We can see the natal Mars-Moon conjunction in Scorpio closely influenced by both transiting Saturn (7 Scorpio) and transiting Mars (2 Aquarius).  Saturn (obstacles, loss, disturbance) is the much slower body here so its approximate conjunction provides a structural affliction to Mars (violence, conflict, aggressive action).  This was close enough to reflect a rising tension in the country over the past several weeks following its exact conjunction in mid-December.

As is often the case, the triggering planet was the faster-moving Mars which was just a few days before its exact square alignment with natal Mars.  Mars-to-Mars transits are notoriously negative transits and often coincide with violent events.  We can also see that transiting Rahu (20 Virgo) was in an exact conjunction with Venus (20 Virgo).  Rahu is often associated with foreigners and outsiders and here it may be symbolizing the Islamic terrorists who were affiliated with the Yemeni branch of Al-Qaeda. Venus here may be seen as representing the national happiness which the Islamic Rahu had shocked and damaged through this attack.

Underneath it all is the withering influence of Neptune (11 Aquarius) which is in a square aspect with the Moon (13 Scorpio).  Distant Neptune is often seen as the planet of dreams and vision, and when it is favourably disposed, it can be associated with great national programs and aspirations.  But when it is in hard aspect as it is here, Neptune's effects are usually negative and suggest confusion or deceit.  The Moon symbolizes the people and their mood so this Neptune-Moon pairing may reflect a national sense of confusion about the nature of French citizenship.  Given all this tension and conflict between cultures, what does it mean to be French?  Is France going to remain a secular Republic that encourages assimilation or is that mission now impossible given the inability and unwillingness of many Muslims to feel a sense of belonging in modern France? 

The Neptune-Moon aspect will continue to be quite close through much of 2015 so we can expect a lot more soul-searching on this question.  Worse still, Saturn will remain in fairly close proximity to the Moon for the rest of the year so that suggests an ongoing unease and frustration over this issue that could erode the national will.  I would be especially concerned over the late summer-early fall period when Saturn stations exactly on Mars (destruction and strife through conflict) while a nodal return places Rahu with the Sun-Rahu conjunction in the natal chart. The heavy Rahu influence could be a clue that France will become more deeply entangled in conflict involving foreigners, either abroad or at home.

Financial Markets Update

Stock markets suffered modest declines last week on growing fears over the renewed possibility of Greece leaving the Eurozone after new elections at the end of January.  The Dow lost 1% closing at 17,737 while the Indian Sensex finished at 27,458.  The week unfolded more or less as expected as the early week Mars and Saturn influences coincided closely with larger declines.  Also not surprising, was the midweek Mercury-Venus-Neptune alignment coinciding with a rebound after the latest soothing words from the Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. 

This week looks somewhat more promising as Mercury and Venus continue their journey and align with Uranus and Pluto during the first half of the week.  While some anxiety is possible in the early going, I would think some gains are likely midweek.  The late week looks much more difficult, however, as Mars tightens its square with Saturn.  Just where stocks might finish the week is harder to say.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A question for investors in 2015: Do you feel lucky?

(4 January 2015)  As Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry famously noted, it sometimes just comes down to luck.  The New Year is upon us now and investors are once again assessing the risk-reward ratio of this vastly inflated stock market. As the world economy continues to struggle, central banks have been desperately trying to stimulate growth by various clever means of money printing.  Even though the average person isn't doing much better, the stock market has responded favourably to all this borrowed government money as the bull market now enters its six year since its 2009 low. 

Can the stock market rise for yet another year despite unimpressive economic fundamentals and so-so job growth in the US and a deflationary stagnation taking shape in Europe and Japan?  Bullish investors may pause to consider whether their luck can hold and the central banks can keep this game going for another year.   While no one can know the future with certainty, an understanding of the effects of the changing alignments of the planets can provide useful hints for the year ahead.

Several weeks ago, I thought that the Jupiter retrograde on 8 December might mark a significant top in the markets.  Jupiter is traditionally seen as a planet of expansion and its reversal in direction was one reason to think that some of its optimistic energy might wane as it began its four-month retrograde cycle.  In addition, I noted how Jupiter stationed retrograde in an exact aspect with the natal Moon in the chart of the New York Stock Exchange.  As Jupiter moved away from this positive aspect with the Moon, I reasoned, there was less likely to be additional gains for stocks, at least in the short run.  This proved to be only temporarily correct, however, as US stocks rebounded to marginally higher highs through Christmas. 

Other stock markets in Europe and Asia did peak in early December and have struggled to regain those levels ever since.  The Tokyo market hit a 10-year high on the exact day of the Jupiter retrograde, while India's BSE hit an all-time high just four days before and has since declined.  The UK FTSE made an important interim high three days before Jupiter reversed direction and has been lower ever since, while the German DAX also topped out just three days before Jupiter stationed retrograde.  Jupiter turns retrograde once a year and moves backwards through the sky for about four months before resuming its normal forward motion.

To cut to the chase, I think the outlook for 2015 is negative for stocks.  Besides the effect of a weakened Jupiter over the next three months, there are a couple of other patterns that may correspond with declines on many stock markets around the world.  For the purposes of this brief post, I want to focus on the NYSE chart.  The chart may be considered a plausible proxy for global markets as a whole.  While Jupiter separates from its aspect with the Moon, it nonetheless remains in the 1st house in this chart and therefore may retain some protective effect on collective market sentiment.  Jupiter will remain in Cancer in the 1st house in this chart for the first half of the year, so that could help prevent some more serious crash-like scenarios. 

More worryingly, however, Saturn (7 Scorpio) has just moved past its opposition aspect with the Sun (6 Taurus).  I would have thought we might have already seen more downside as this aspect was at its closest but it remains a source of potential caution in January.  Saturn is a bearish influence and its aspects are often found in situations where pessimism predominates.

The additional problem with this transit of Saturn in Scorpio is that it is due to station retrograde at 10 Scorpio on 14 March  This will form a near-exact 120 degree angle with the natal Ketu (South Lunar Node) in the chart.  Since both Saturn and Ketu are considered natural malefics, their geometric connection is a red flag, as two negatives can make one big negative.  Due to the very slow motion of Saturn, the effects could be manifested a couple of weeks either side of the date of the station.  More ominously, Mars conjoins Uranus and tightly squares Pluto just three days before this Saturn station.

While Jupiter will again form a positive trine angle with the Moon in early July, we can see that there will be a nodal return at the same time.  Rahu and Ketu will conjoin their natal positions in late June.  Nodal returns are often problematic as the disruptive and unpredictable nature of the nodes come to light.  Although not always negative, they are more likely to correspond with periods of instability in the markets. 

The summer gets another astrological mark against it as Saturn is due to station direct at 4 Scorpio in early August.  This will place it smack dab at the midpoint of the Sun and Mercury in the NYSE chart.  This likely suggests the mid- to late-summer period will see the markets fall. 

Jupiter's trine aspect to Saturn and then Venus in the late summer and early fall could see a return to optimism, although I suspect it won't be very enduring.  Jupiter will be moving quite fast at that time so its optimism will not have much time to take root.

Saturn then aligns with Rahu in September just as both will be in a tight alignment with the natal Sun at 6 Taurus.  This early fall period could be another rough patch for stocks. 

Jupiter's conjunction with Mars (27 Leo) in November and December offers the possibility of a significant recovery in the market at the end of the year. 

Overall, however, I think the difficult aspects outweigh the positive ones, at least in this chart.  I think the likelihood is that US stocks will finish 2015 lower than their current levels.  This will likely hold true for many if not most stock markets around the world.  Just how much lower is harder to say, but I will offer some thoughts on this question in my subscriber newsletter throughout the year. 

Weekly Financial Update

As noted, stocks got off to an uncertain start in 2015 last week as the Dow lost 1% closing at 17,832.  By contrast, Indian stocks rallied as the Sensex finished at 27,887.  As I predicted in my newsletter, the early week entry of Venus into Capricorn correlated closely with gains. In general, the second half of the week was more negative as malefic Mars opposed Jupiter. 
This week looks quite choppy as the early week will see Mercury in aspect with bearish Saturn just as Mars enters Aquarius.  But the midweek looks more encouraging as Mercury and Venus align with Neptune.  The late week looks more difficult as Mars could be close enough to activate the Saturn-Neptune square.  There is a lot of negative energy contained in this trio but it is unclear just when it will manifest -- this week, next week, or the week after.