Sunday, March 29, 2015

Andreas Lubitz and the tragedy of Germanwings 9525

(29 March 2015)  In the end, Andreas Lubitz got what he wanted.  The 27-year old Germanwings pilot had told a former girlfriend that he wanted to make a spectacular gesture so that 'everyone would know his name'.  The world has recoiled in shock and horror on learning that Lubitz deliberately crashed his plane into the French Alps killing himself and all the other 149 people on board on March 24.  It has now emerged that young pilot had hidden his history of clinical depression from his employer in order to keep his job.

There is some uncertainty about the the birth date of Andreas Lubitz.   Some sources report he was born on 18 December 1987 while others say he was born on 28 December, in the town of Montabaur, Germany.  I prefer the chart for 18 December for reasons I outline below.  As an additional obstacle, his birth time is unknown so a full analysis of his horoscope is impossible. However, even his birth date chart reveal some major planetary stresses for the present time. 

In cases of mental illness, the condition of Moon and Mercury are key.  The Moon rules the mind and the emotional self.  Mercury is said to be associated with the rational thinking process.  When both of these planets are afflicted, the odds of some kind of mental anguish increases. 

The Moon is probably more pivotal in this respect and we can see that Lubitz may well have born with the Moon debilitated in the sign of Scorpio.  This can make a person somewhat reactive and intense in their emotional responses to situations.  There is nothing wrong with Scorpio Moons per se, however, but the debilitation factor becomes more important when we look at its corresponding co-factors.  Scorpio is ruled by Mars and Mars is placed in the 12th house from the Moon, the house of loss and isolation.  This should be seen as a negative influence on the Moon and his mental well-being.  And the relative proximity of Mars to the Moon is an additional problem as Mars can be an agitating influence.  If Lubitz was born on the morning then the intensity of Mars would be more strongly felt by his Moon.  

I tend to think he was born in the afternoon or evening as the other main difficulty with his Moon is the close trine aspect from Rahu (North Lunar Node).  Rahu-Moon aspects can create instability in a person.  There can be heightened powers of imagination and creativity but the vulnerability to upset and mood swings increases also.  It is something of a trade-off in that respect: enhanced imagination in exchange for less mental calm and emotional predictability. 

Mercury is also afflicted in his chart as it is in a tight conjunction with Saturn.  Saturn is the planet most connected with depressive moods and sadness so it is no surprise here that Lubitz' main struggles in life were Saturnian in nature.  To be sure, Mercury (29 Scorpio) is also closely aspected by Jupiter (26 Pisces) and that would lend him a high intellectual capacity that was required for being a good pilot.  However, Saturn's influence is stronger in the chart since it is closer.  People with strong Saturn charts need order and control to do well in life.  When these are taken away, the result can be paralyzing or sometimes even chaotic.  Lubitz's girlfriend had recently refused to marry him and had ended their relationship a few weeks ago, so this no doubt affected his self-perception. The order and stability in his life had suddenly been cast aside.

Saturn figures even more prominently in his chart since it is also conjunct the Sun and Uranus.  People with Sun-Uranus conjunctions like to think 'outside the box' and abhor convention.  Coupled with Lubitz's emotional problems, the Sun-Uranus preference for excitement and breaking with the mainstream may have played a role in his seeking a final act of notoriety which would make him famous.

The transits at the time of the crash were particularly stressful.  First, we should note an ongoing Saturn conjunction to his Moon in early Scorpio.  Saturn had been in fairly close conjunction for many months and this was no doubt weighing on him.  Saturn transits to the Moon are usually darker times, especially when individuals have such vulnerable Moons, as Lubitz had.  People with unafflicted Moons usually can come out of such Saturn transits without any problems at all, and can even benefit from the regimentation and discipline that Saturn often brings.  But a debilitated Moon in aspect with Rahu in proximity with Mars is another story. 

Lubitz's Mars (22 Libra) was also activated by the double alignment of Uranus (21 Pisces) and Pluto (21 Sagittarius).   Mars is the planet most associated with sudden or quick actions and is connected with violence in extreme situations.  The Uranus and Pluto transits here were ongoing for several weeks but the partial aspects were still very close and therefore this had to be very agitating for him.  He felt the strong desire to do something big -- to make 'everyone know his name'.

The insanity of his plan would be more likely be brought to fruition because of transiting Mars' aspect to the Moon, as well as the lesser degreewise alignment to Mercury, Saturn, Sun, Uranus and Venus.  This short term Mars aspect was likely the triggering influence for this terrible event. Mars (0 Aries) had just entered Aries and it therefore cast its most malefic 8th house aspect (210 degree) to the natal Moon.  Mars to Moon transits are classic indications of anger and emotional outbursts.  All of his well-laid plans could finally be played out in this sinister act of flying a plane at 400 mph into a mountain and taking the lives of 149 innocent people.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks generally declined last week as worries over Yemen and slow growth data out of China encouraged more investors to take profits.  The Dow lost 2% closing at 17,712 while the Indian Sensex tumbled almost 3% and finished at 27,458.  This outcome was broadly in keeping with my expectations for a bearish March as Jupiter's bullish influence is waning.  Jupiter formed an exact 120 degree angle with Uranus on March 3rd -- just one day before the all-time high for Indian stocks and one day after the all-time high for US stocks.  Once these Jupiter aspects begin to separate, collective sentiment tends to recede and markets are more susceptible to pullbacks and corrections. 

This week looks quite volatile given the lunar eclipse that is due on Saturday.  The Sun's conjunction with Ketu on Tuesday is front and center in this respect since the Moon's nodes are harbingers of eclipses.  As it happens, there are also some bullish short term aspects in the mix also as Venus aligns with Uranus and Pluto on Monday and the Sun aligns with bullish Jupiter on Wednesday.  The markets look quite active here with larger than normal moves more likely although it is less clear if there is a consistent direction indicated by the planets.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Is the Fed's patience wearing thin?

(16 March 2015)  All eyes in the financial world are on Janet Yellen this week as the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee meets on Wednesday.  In recent weeks, there has been a growing sense that Yellen will shift the language around a possible interest rate hike later this year.  The Fed's "patient" stance on a possible rate hike may be dropped as the US economy picks up steam and inflationary pressures build.   Although any actual hike may still be months away (June at the earliest), markets are keenly aware that any changes in wording could move stocks significantly.  An abrupt shift in language could persuade investors to trim their holdings and push the market lower.  A retention of "patient", or a substitution of any similarly accommodative language would be unexpected and could spark a rally.  So are there any astrological clues that may reveal what will she say?

I can't predict what words she will use but the planets do seem to have a fairly unusual layer of intensity on Wednesday.  Looking at Janet Yellen's horoscope (actually her approximated horoscope since we don't know her birth time), we can see that transiting Mars (26 Pisces) will be in a close trine aspect with Ketu (25 Scorpio), the South Lunar Node.  This kind of Mars-Ketu aspect suggests a greater expenditure of energy and the necessity of quick reaction to unexpected developments.  Although it's broadly stressful, it doesn't necessarily mean that Yellen will suddenly be in the hotseat. 

On Wednesday, Venus (7 Aries) will form a close square with her Saturn (8 Cancer) which may indicate some level of sadness or unhappiness. With Saturn (10 Scorpio) just having stationed retrograde in fairly close alignment with her Mercury (11 Cancer), there is some evidence that Yellen is under considerable stress here.  Saturn-Mercury aspects tend to coincide with major obstacles that are often work-related and may signify a setback.

As an added layer, we can see that there is a similar Mars influence in the Fed horoscope as Mars squares its natal position.  Mars transits ratchet up the energy surrounding a one or two-day window.  The square aspect is often problematic in some way so that conflict or annoyance is more likely to manifest.  This is not a transit one would find if, for example, a Fed announcement was welcomed by the market with a major rally.  Another red flag here is that Saturn's station at 10 Scorpio forms a tight 135 degree aspect with the Ascendant of the Fed chart.  This is another sign of a setback or complication in their plans. 

Taken together, these influences suggest that whatever choices Yellen and the Fed will make this week, they will be the result of imperfect options.  There is also the possibility that things will not go according to expectations and they may be forced to do something she would rather not.  Now, whether this means staying patient about zero interest rates is harder to say. 

Given Yellen's dovish stance, this seems more likely to mean raising rates sooner rather than later.  This might also explain the strong Mars and Saturn influences here which tend to be prominent in unwanted or negative situations.  It it possible that Yellen and the Fed will only get into trouble from her testimony after the formal printed announcement is released.   The Mercury-Neptune conjunction on Wednesday seems to suggest some confusion is possible, although it could simply represent an idealized (Neptune) interpretation of her communication (Mercury) -- "the economy is getting better".  Neptune often symbolizes things that do not exist in reality and is more concerned with dreams and illusions.  That may refer to Yellen's dream of an economic recovery as the rest of the world appears to be slipping into recession. 

The bottom line is it's hard to see a simple positive market reaction to Wednesday's announcement with these planets.  It's still conceivable the market could still move higher this week but the planets suggest that Yellen and the Fed will be in the spotlight where they are more likely to receive more criticism and scrutiny.

Weekly Market Update

Stocks were lower last week as growing concern over the sharply rising US Dollar convinced investors to reassess their portfolios.  The Dow lost 1% on the week closing at 17,749 while the Indian Sensex slumped 3% to 28,503.  This negative outcome was very much in keeping with our expectations as I thought the Mars alignment with Uranus and Pluto would likely cause some problems, especially given the apparent waning influence of Jupiter in the wake of its aspect with Uranus on March 3rd. 

This week could see some bigger moves as a result of Wednesday's Fed announcement.  Wednesday's Mercury-Neptune conjunction could go either way actually, although the Mars-Saturn alignment on Tuesday looks more difficult.  Whether its effects bleeds into Wednesday is unclear, however. Friday's solar eclipse could introduce more uncertainty into the mix, especially given the close Venus-Saturn alignment that day. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Hillary Clinton email controversy

(10 March 2015) Hillary Clinton has been back in the news recently, but for all the wrong reasons.  The frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic Party nomination has come under scrutiny for her emails during her tenure as Secretary of State.  Ms. Clinton apparently did not use government email as required by the rules and instead used a private email address.  In addition, she sent and received emails through a private email server located in the Clinton house in New York.

It's really the last thing she needs right now as rumors were rife that she was on the verge of formally announcing her candidacy for President.  She is likely to speak publicly the email controversy and thereby hopes to clear the air in order that she can declare in the coming weeks.  Whether or not she can quickly douse this fire remains to be seen, however.

Her horoscope provides some intriguing clues about the current situation. While there is some uncertainty about her birth time, I use the 8.00 am chart but try to keep an open mind about it. When The New York Times broke the story on March 2nd, we can see that retrograde Jupiter (20 Cancer 41) had just past its conjunction with her natal Mars (20 Cancer 58) while Mercury (21 Capricorn) opposed Mars within one degree.  On the face of it, that doesn't look too bad given Jupiter's bias towards favorable outcomes. 

But one way of thinking about this Jupiter-to-Mars conjunction is that it was already past exact on the day of the Times' story.  It became exact on Feb 27, some three days before.  Whatever positive effects Jupiter may have been exerting on Ms. Clinton were therefore diminishing as Jupiter moved away from her natal Mars.  So Jupiter's approaching conjunction may have protected her in the days and weeks leading up to the conjunction in late February, but once past, the protective effects lessened and allowed other negative planetary influences to come to the fore. 

The other part of the equation here is that Clinton's Mars is currently in alignment with both Uranus (20 Pisces 34) and Pluto (21 Sagittarius 03).  Both of these outer planets are within minutes of exact angles to Mars.  Both Uranus and Pluto are formally neutral influences but can become much more negative if hard aspects are involved (not the case here) or if malefics are involved, which is the case here.  Mars is a malefic planet by nature and her Mars is debilitated in Cancer thus increasing possible damaging effects when it is involved in a bad transit alignment. 

So how damaging could this be to her political ambitions?  My guess is she will not suffer too much long term damage even if the current controversy may last a while.  Uranus is moving forward now and thus weakening its ties with Mars in the coming days.  That should help her.  Pluto moves more slowly so its alignment and potential fallout could linger for a while.  Pluto tends to be associated with power plays and coercive situations so we could see Ms. Clinton on her heels somewhat for several more weeks.  The good news for Hillary is that Jupiter will station direct on April 9th and therefore is due to pass directly over her Mars again in May.  This again could create a protective effect on her and boost her candidacy later in the spring.

Weekly Financial Market Update

Stock markets wobbled last week after Friday's strong US jobs report increased the likelihood of a Fed interest rate hike.   Since the 6-year old bull market has been largely dependent on the Fed's ultra-loose monetary policy  (i.e. money printing), the Dow tumbled and finished the week at 17,856.  Indian stocks fared somewhat better as enthusiasm for the recent Budget gave investors more of a reason to buy.  The Sensex gained less than 1% on the week closing at 29,448.  This tentative outcome was not surprising as I thought the early week Jupiter-Uranus aspect had bullish potential but that it could well run out before the week was done, especially given the unpredictable midweek Mars-Ketu (South Lunar Node) conjunction.  That was pretty much the case as commodities like gold and oil followed most stock markets lower later in the week. 

This week will be an important test of the ongoing influence of the Jupiter-Uranus aspect.  Although it remains very close to exact, it is nonetheless waning.  As we have seen with Hillary Clinton's situation, these close but separating aspects can sometimes shift their polarity in the blink of an eye.  And with Mars conjoining Uranus here and forming a square aspect with Pluto midweek, one would expect collective anxiety and fear to become more prominent.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Euphoria becomes reality: the BJP's cautious first budget

(2 March 2015)  The new government of Narendra Modi announced its much-anticipated first budget last Saturday to initially positive, if muted, reviews.  Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's budget was expected to begin the herculean task of reforming the Indian economy away from its statist and populist orientation towards a more deregulated, pro-growth stance.  The budget was seen as rather cautious and piece-meal, however, as Jaitley did not reduce subsidies nor did he introduce a general sales tax which is widely seen as necessary to fund overdue infrastructure improvements.  Markets rose only modestly on Saturday in reaction to the budget and Monday's session similarly only mildly positive suggesting a lack of enthusiasm and perhaps even a twinge of disappointment.  All of the optimism over the promise of sweeping change from the Modi government now appears to fading as reality takes over.

Perhaps we should not be surprised that PM Narendra Modi has been having a tough go of it lately.  On February 10th, Modi's BJP was trounced in the high-profile Delhi election by the anti-elite upstart AAP.  The defeat was seen a partial critique of Modi's administration, although it is just in the first year of its mandate.  Reforms have been too slow for business and the rising middle class but too fast and destabilizing for popular sectors. Now the budget appears to continue this overly cautious approach which tries to be all things to all people. 

To some extent, the current malaise of the Modi government can be seen in the astrological alignments of the swearing-in chart.  Mr. Modi was sworn-in at 6.13 p.m. on May 26th 2014.  As I suggested in a post I made at the time, Modi was likely to suffer some kind of setback in early 2015 sometime between February and April.  The key astrological feature in this regard was the Saturn retrograde station on March 14th. 

Saturn is due to station and turn retrograde at 10 degrees of Scorpio which is almost exactly opposite the Sun (11 Taurus) in the swearing-in chart.  Saturn aspects tend to favour caution over boldness so the budget may also be seen in that light.  Saturn-Sun aspects are usually indicators of disappointment, failure, and loss.  The loss to the AAP in Delhi in February effectively marked the end of the hope and euphoria of Modi's win the year before.  Saturn, via the AAP, ended Modi's political honeymoon.  Saturn was situated at 10 Scorpio 06 on Feb 10 just one degree from the natal Sun at 11 Taurus 14. Due to its slow velocity, Saturn had only moved to 10 Scorpio 46 on Budget Day thus reiterating an even closer affliction to the natal Sun.

On May 28th 2014, I wrote that this Saturn affliction to the Sun would likely reflect some big problems for Modi:

In terms of timing, the transit that stands out most is the Saturn retrograde station at 10 Scorpio in March 2015.  Saturn will station in quite a close opposition to the Sun (11 Taurus) between February and April and may correspond with a significant setback, especially concerning Mr Modi himself, as the Sun symbolizes leaders.

The other source of his problems is that transiting Rahu (16 Virgo) is closely conjunct the natal Mars in this chart at 15 Virgo.  Rahu-Mars tends to be more associated with sudden developments, especially those involving a sense of conflict, anger and violence.  I'm not convinced the BJP Delhi defeat or the muted budget reaction is reflected in this transit.  My sense is that the government may have further obstacles to overcome in the months of March and April that are more in keeping with the symbolism of Mars.  It could be some political dispute that arises from the budget or it could even be some significant act of violence in the country.  Although Saturn will gradually back away from its aspect with the Sun after March 14th, Rahu stations at 15-16 Virgo until May and will only be just one degree past in June.  The next two to three months may therefore prove to be quite challenging on several fronts for the Modi government. 

Weekly Financial Update

After the budget drama, Indian stocks were modestly higher last week as the BSE-Sensex closed up less than 1% at 29,361.  US Stocks were largely flat despite more testimony from Fed Chair Yellen that she was in no rush to hike interest rates.   The Dow finished at 18,132.  I had been fairly non-committal last week although I noted the likelihood of a favorable reaction to the Indian budget on Saturday.  The early week Saturn aspects were only mildly bearish with Monday's Sun-Saturn square being the worst.  Jupiter is likely one of the key influences keeping sentiment as positive as it is at the moment. 

But this week could see some important developments as Jupiter's bullish aspect with Uranus will exactly culminate its 120 degree angle on Tuesday.  Bullish Venus conjoins Uranus on Wednesday while the Sun aligns with Jupiter-Uranus on Thursday.  There are a high density of aspects in play this week which could magnify trading outcomes both in terms of size and significance.  Mars also conjoins Ketu (South Lunar Node) on Wednesday and Thursday so that introduces an element of the unexpected and the unwanted.  It could turn out to be quite a week.  The main question is: what happens to the market after Jupiter starts to separate from its angle with Uranus this week?