Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The World in 2017: the New Year's Horoscope

(20 December 2016) As 2016 winds down to a merciful close, it's time to reflect on the year that was and ponder what may lie ahead for the New Year.  2016 will likely go down in history as a year of popular revolt against the status quo and the rise of 21st-century nationalism.  It may also be remembered as a year that globalization died.  The Pax Americana that began with the Bretton Woods economic agreement in 1944 may well have run its course now with the election of the nationalist Donald Trump to the presidency.  Trump has vowed to tear up free trade agreements and renegotiate US treaty obligations in an effort to reduce its superpower footprint.  The isolationist and protectionist Trump has promised to "Make America Great Again" by raising tariffs on imports, and preferentially buying and hiring American in an effort to jump start the stagnant Main St. economy and narrow the wealth gap between the haves and have nots.

A major thrust of this popular right-wing revolt has been the re-assertion of power by nativist populations in the UK and the US against outsiders, both in terms of immigrants and international regulatory bodies.  In June, the UK voted to leave the European Union, driven in large part by a desire to regain control of its sovereignty in terms of law and immigration.  Immigration was also front and center in the US election as Trump used the resentment and fear of immigrants from Mexico and the Muslim world as part of his rallying cry for change.  In both instances, it was stunning rebuke to the political and financial establishments.

Reviewing 2016

To some extent, I had forecast these developments in last year's New Year's horoscope analysis. Each year, I like to look at the planetary alignments for midnight on January 1st (I use Washington, DC but the chart doesn't change much for other cities) as a way of glimpsing into the future for the year to come.  It's a somewhat unconventional approach since the New Year has no astronomical significance.  However, I have found the midnight chart does often contain insights, possibly due to the huge subjective importance we collectively place on that moment in the calendar.

In last year's chart (see above), I noticed a tense square aspect between Mercury and Mars and wondered if the economy would be negatively impacted.  That really hasn't been the case although the evidence could be argued either way.  But I also suggested that the Mars affliction to Mercury along with the aspect of Rahu (aka, the North Lunar Node) could signal a rise in cyber disputes and hacking involving national governments.  That is a plausible hit given the possible Russian involvement in the US election.  Russia may well have acted to help Trump get elected through its hacking efforts against the Clinton campaign and more generally in its attempts to destabilize the democratic process through planting fake news stories.   Here is what I wrote on 1 January 2016:

Communications are also targeted by this Mars-Mercury affliction and the presence of Saturn in the 3rd house of communication is also unhelpful.  Worse still, Rahu makes a close aspect to Mercury.  This could manifest in the form of major cyber disputes and hacking, even involving national governments.  Rahu's influence may also be indicative of undercover criminal activity, especially involving high tech.

In last year's analysis, I also thought the Moon-Rahu conjunction in the 1st house would likely highlight notions of change.  This has very much been the case in the US and UK at least (and to a lesser extent in Italy) as the globalization status quo has been pushed aside in favour of a more nationalist future.  I also thought that "political dissatisfaction from the process of globalization" would be on the rise.  Finally, I noted that since Mars was also in alignment with the Moon and Rahu, the larger question of immigrants and outsiders would become more prominent in 2016.  This was largely true as the UK Brexit vote hinged on limiting uncontrolled EU immigrants and Trump campaigned to build a wall to stop illegal Mexicans and to ban Muslims from entering the US.  Again from 1 January 2016:

The presence of the Moon and  Rahu in the 1st house in Virgo is a good indication that it will be a year that focuses on change.  Of course, accelerating technological and social change has become a fact of life over the past 20 years since the introduction of the internet and other computer-based technologies.  But this pairing focuses on the disruptive psychological effects of these changes to a point where there could be a growing sense of frustration or alienation with our current direction.   Rapid economic changes have also undermined social stability for many people so we are more likely to see more social and political dissatisfaction from the uncertainty generated from the process of globalization.  Migrants and "outsiders" will likely stay in the forefront of events as Moon-Rahu aspects bring our attention to people who are different in some way from the majority, including ethnicity, race, or religion.  With Mars (conflict) partially in this planetary equation, I would expect the issue to continue to be a source of disagreement in places like Europe and the US. 

2017: A year of change, innovation, and persistence

As is often the case, this year's January 1st horoscope contains both good and bad alignments.  However, the bad alignments look quite difficult and suggest some challenges ahead.  The first thing that catches my eye is that Mercury is retrograde and is under the close aspect of Rahu (North Lunar Node).  Taken literally, this symbolizes change (Rahu) in thinking (Mercury).   The impetus towards social change that began in 2016 is therefore likely to continue in 2017, albeit in a different form. 

Whereas the Rahu-Moon represented a change and disruption in mood, the Rahu-Mercury aspect could signify a change in thinking and rationality.  Rahu is all about erasing boundaries -- between tradition and innovation but also between logic and irrationality.  It's very much a two-edged sword in that respect.  Mercury represents thinking and rational thought so the Rahu influence here may undermine conventional logic.  And just when we thought that much of the world was already crazy!  Well, maybe we will see what a "post-truth" society looks like in practice this year. 

The Rahu-Mercury aspect also echoes last year's affliction of Mercury and suggests that cyber security will again be front and center in 2017.  Rahu typically has a distorting effect on the planets its aspects and since Mercury symbolizes communication, trade, and transport there is a heightened risk of hacking, computer/power outages, and disruption of normal everyday activities.  These disruptions are likely to be significant and hence more newsworthy. 

But more generally, it could symbolize simply new ways of communicating as they supplant old forms of media and self-expression.  In that sense, each planet also has a positive side and that is no less true with malefic Rahu.  Rahu-Mercury aspects should translate to more important technological breakthroughs as Rahu governs research and breaking the boundaries of conventional wisdom. 

Technological innovation is also boosted by the close Jupiter-Uranus aspect since Uranus has some association with new technology.  The close alignment of Saturn with these planets suggests that this technological innovation may have tangible, practical uses very quickly.  Saturn emphasizes the notion of the practical and the everyday and its connection here may mean things like driverless cars, travel to Mars or virtual reality take big steps closer to becoming commercially viable. 

A more troubling placement in the chart is the Mars-Neptune-Ketu conjunction in the 6th house.  This is a bad one.  The Mars-Neptune conjunction is exact and its also almost exactly on the equal 6th house cusp of protection, conflict and health.  Not exactly cheery stuff.  Mars (conflict, harm, aggression) is usually a negative influence and its conjunction with Neptune could be seen as suffering as a result of water/liquids (floods), sickness (epidemics) or poison (e.g. chemicals, drugs, toxins). 

It doesn't take much imagination to dream up some scary scenarios with this planetary combination.   The presence of Ketu (South Node) here only makes it worse unfortunately.  Ketu suggests sudden developments that have out-of-control impacts.  The good news is that Saturn is not aligned with these planets so perhaps the actual damage and hardship may be fairly limited.  But the alignment is sufficiently prominent that it could be the big story of 2017.

The economy may struggle to keep its head above water.  There are no strong influences here although there are some negatives that will likely cast the deciding vote.  The Rahu influence on Mercury is somewhat negative since Mercury is partially associated with commerce and trade. So that is a mild negative.  But Venus represents value and money and it is in fairly good shape in the 6th house.  It's in a wide conjunction with Ketu (South Lunar Node) which is also somewhat negative, but it's not really close. 

Basically, I don't foresee the global economy going over a cliff or anything in 2017 but even maintaining its current low growth levels will be difficult.   The Moon (= the people, mass sentiment) is fairly strong in Capricorn in the 5th house but it does receive an unhelpful aspect from Saturn.   The aspect is seven degrees off but it could still be enough to depress the collective mood somewhat.  Fortunately, Jupiter also casts its benefic aspect on to the Moon with the same orb so this could offset the influence of Saturn. 

Overall, it's a picture of people persisting in the face of hardship and adapting to changing circumstances.  Capricorn is a very pragmatic sign and the Moon's placement here may mean that people focus on their day-to-day lives as best they can.  There is a quiet, heroic, "everyman" quality to this Moon placement that gives me faith that we will come through 2017 alright.   I think there is good reason to believe that we will find new ways to adapt and thrive while keeping our dignity and ideals intact. 

Whatever the future may bring, I want to wish all of my readers a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. 

Final Thoughts on the December 19 Electoral College vote

The Electoral College made Trump's election as president official yesterday.  Despite numerous protests and petitions, the Electoral College voted as expected and guaranteed Trump's election to the White House.  While I thought we might have seen more in the way of unexpected twists and turns in this vote, the final outcome was not that surprising.  The Mercury retrograde station yesterday lined up against the Sun in the USA chart in an intriguing way that hinted as unforeseen events.  Whatever else may have occurred yesterday in that vein, it was not manifest in the EC vote.  Not every aspect plays out the way you think it might.  While it was disappointing that nothing much happened, it was always a less than probable outcome. 

As I noted shortly after the election, I thought the most likely outcome was that Trump would be inaugurated. However, I thought that the path to inauguration would be fraught with many obstacles and setbacks for him.  While there has been predictable outrage and opposition from Democrats, so far we haven't seen any significant obstacles yet, except for the questions about Russia.  I do think that this Russian election interference has the potential to fulfill that prediction of a major pre-inauguration setback even if it won't deny him the presidency.  It may still damage him politically and it could undermine his legitimacy in the long run.  In that respect, January always looked worse for Trump than November and December.  So the turbulent transition period is still very much a going concern here. 

There is still a good chance that there will be a bipartisan committee on Russian interference in the election although it is unclear just when this will convene. Trump is opposed to it but one would think he will have to yield to it eventually.  Presumably, he would be more inclined to accept a committee only after he's been sworn-in.  At the moment, Trump is avoiding the media as he has canceled a scheduled press conference last week which now may happen in early January.   In some ways, Trump is on the defensive here as he tries to find a way to keep the debate focused on his cabinet appointees and new policy proposals.

I will update my thoughts on Trump next week before his troublesome Saturn-to-Moon conjunction takes hold in early January.  I hope to also discuss the timing of potential high and low points in the incoming Trump administration and whether or not he can finish out his first term.  There is some opinion on the left that Trump will actually be impeached or will have to resign at some point.  I will address that question in the coming weeks before the inauguration on January 20th.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks have been mixed over the past few days.   US and European stocks have enjoyed modest gains this week but trended lower last week following the Fed's rate hike on Wednesday.  Indian shares have been more bearish, however, as the rising Dollar has hurt FII inflows.   In last week's market forecast, I had been fairly bearish as I thought the Full Moon would damage sentiment.  This was proven partially true although its effects were minimal.  However,  yesterday's Mercury retrograde had no effect in the US although Indian equities extended their losing streak.

This week could see more uncertainty into midweek but the late week leans slightly bullish as Venus aligns with Jupiter and the Moon on Thursday.  The approach of the Uranus direct station on December 29th may be the planetary catalyst necessary to produce a change in the trend.  US and European stocks are especially vulnerable in that respect as they have been rallying since the election. 

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter is published every Saturday and includes extended discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trump's Russia problem: Did Putin interfere with the US election?

 (13 December 2016) The Trump transition hit a major speed bump over the weekend as the CIA indicated there is now a strong case that Russia interfered in the US election.  The CIA stated that not only is there evidence of Russian hacking of the DNC and RNC but that the interference was intended to help Donald Trump get elected.  Although long-suspected by the Clinton campaign, the CIA Russia release has prompted calls for a bipartisan investigation on Capitol Hill. 

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump has rejected the CIA's assertion and has said there is no need for an investigation.  Some on the GOP side have even suggested the whole story has been concocted by sore loser Democrats.  But Trump is now at odds with many in his own party as the GOP Senate leadership has called for a formal investigation in the days and weeks to come.  This, in turn, has led some left-leaning Democrats to call for a delay in the Electoral College vote on December 19th.  Some Electors have also requested access to the CIA security briefing before they cast their vote on the 19th. 

So things are finally getting interesting ahead of the vote.  The swing state recounts were either blocked by state governments in Pennsylvania or Michigan or came to nothing as in Wisconsin which did not alter the original result.  But the possibility that the Russians actively helped to get Trump elected now raises the stakes significantly.  Suddenly, it is more plausible that we could some big surprises come December 19th as 1) Mercury turns retrograde while in an 2) intense conjunction with Pluto and 3) directly opposite the USA's Sun at 22 Gemini.  Just before the election, I had noted the unique intensity of this configuration and the possibility that it could coincide with some unusual events around the Electoral College vote that would not follow standard expectations. 

We're still a long way from seeing Trump fail to win the crucial 270 votes, but at least now we can see how we might get there.  This Russian interference investigation is a real thing and it could well shape the rest the this transition period up until the Inauguration on January 20th.  This is the kind of thing I had envisaged in my previous posts on how Trump could run into problems in late December and in January.  As the investigation goes forward, Trump could be on the defensive.

So what happens on December 19th?  Short answer: I don't know. I think there is a reasonable chance that he doesn't get to the required 270 votes that day for various reasons.  Either the EC vote itself is postponed or there are enough faithless electors who vote for someone else or who abstain.  I still can't quite bring myself to say that this is a probable outcome but it seems more likely than betting markets are reflecting.  Hillary Clinton is now seen as having a 33-1 chance of winning the presidency at this point on Predictit.org.  I think they are higher than that, although likely not worth risking too much money on. 

Alternatively, there could be a record number of faithless electors which serves to irritate The Donald no end as his thin skin will have a hard time accepting why Republican Electors might not cast their votes for him.  But in that soft EC scenario, he could still go over 270 and therefore technically win the presidency.  But as I have noted previously, the planets look worse than that, as if there will be something more disruptive around the vote.  Time will tell. 

Trump's other problem is the impact of this investigation on his incoming administration.  His horoscope looks very stressed in January so even if he happens to get 270+ votes, he will likely face serious obstacles either from the first Congressional meeting on January 6th or in the days that follow.  Saturn will be conjunct his Ketu-Moon conjunction.  This is a difficult transit that indicate emotional difficulties,  distortions and burdens. 

This transit could coincide with bad news for Trump from the investigation.  No matter how much the GOP wants Trump to become president, I would think that solid CIA evidence of Russian interference would create big problems for him.  And obviously, if there was evidence of any communication between the Trump campaign and the Russians before the election, this would become disqualifying for Trump, and perhaps even indictable.  Treason can be an ugly word that is tossed around callously, but many liberal Democrats could find themselves pushing hard in that direction. 

But can astrology provide any insight into a possible connection between Putin and Trump?  Not definitively.  Astrology just doesn't work that way.  But if we think inferentially, then there are some clues that suggest at least there is a mutual self-interest at work, if not an outright alliance.  If we can see the planetary alignments working at the same time in the same direction for both Trump and Putin, then that would suggest that there fortunes are connected.  Of course, this would simply reinforce the widely held notion that Putin wanted Trump to beat Hillary Clinton.  Putin strongly dislikes Clinton, while Trump's foreign policy would be hands off and allow Putin more freedom to resume Russian control over Eastern Europe and parts of the Middle East.

Importantly, Putin's chart is moderately afflicted on December 19th but perhaps less than Trump's is.  Mercury-Pluto is square the Sun-Saturn in Putin's chart.  That's tense and unhelpful to be sure.  But perhaps this suggests that whatever setback befalls Trump will less injurious to Putin.  Well, it's Trump that is trying to become president and not Putin so that's less surprising. 

Mars (6 Aquarius) is squaring the Moon (9 Taurus) but it's still three degrees out from exact.  I would think that if the Putin birth time is correct (a big if, I will admit), then Putin is more likely to experience stress and problems around Christmas, say around the 23-26th. Mars (conflict, frustration, anger) is in close square the Moon (emotions), while disruptive Rahu is in an exact aspect with the Ascendant (self).  

Near Christmas Trump's chart looks like it could be confronting some significant uncertainty as Saturn is moving into close conjunction with Ketu while Jupiter aspects Rahu.  Ketu and Rahu are the Moon's Nodes, of course, and are prominent during eclipses.  Given the negative symbolism of eclipses, aspects involving Ketu and Rahu are also seen to have increased risk of unexpected developments which put us on the defensive.  While this looks difficult for Trump, his Mars transit looks less intense. 

So there is some overlap there between the two charts, but I would not say it's compelling evidence of simultaneous affliction over the next two weeks.  So that's a maybe.

But what is more intriguing is what happens in January and beyond.  On January 6th, Congress will meet to accept the votes of the Electoral College.  If Trump does not have 270 votes, then GOP-controlled Congress is empowered to decide the presidency.  The planets on January 6th look mixed.  Mercury ends it retrograde cycle on January 8th as it returns to direct motion.  This is just two days after Congress meets so Mercury will be moving very slowly still and therefore much more energized that usual.  The problem for Trump is that Mercury (5 Sagittarius) will form a close alignment with his Mars (3 Leo).  This is the theoretically less damaging 120-degree trine aspect but it still warrants some attention. Mercury-Mars aspects mark times of intense communication -- not always bad -- and may also indicate an increase in frustration regardless of outcome.  

But at the same time, the Sun (ego, leadership) will conjoin Pluto (power, dominance) at 22-23 Sagittarius in direct opposition to the USA's Sun once again.  And that conjunction will form a near exact 135 degree aspect with Trump's Ascendant.  Not surprisingly, power is first and foremost at this time as this is the scheduled time when Trump could accede to the presidency.  I don't see enough obvious affliction in the chart to suggest he will be denied the presidency on January 6th.  I may be missing something so it's possible, but Mars isn't sufficiently negative for Trump here on this crucial day.  Of course, if the Congressional ratification of the EC vote is postponed due to the investigation, then the matter becomes moot.  But I would think that it is most likely that Trump will be awarded the presidency on January 6th, although with considerable opposition within Congress itself. 

Putin's chart that day also places the Mercury direct station in close proximity to his Mars and this time it is the more potent conjunction.  Moreover, the Sun-Pluto conjunction lines quite close to a square with his natal Saturn (24 Virgo).  That suggests blockage, obstacles, and basically not getting what you want.  Mars is also prominent here in a bad way as it aspects the Sun by 8th house aspect.  This indicates conflict and competition but given the other aspects it seems stressful.  On the plus side, Venus-Ketu are conjunct and align nicely with Putin's Ascendant.  Overall, there is more affliction here than in Trump's chart so Putin may come under increased scrutiny around the time of the Congressional meeting.  It may be that the Congressional opposition to Trump makes explicit and damaging mention of Russian meddling even if Trump wins the vote anyway.  So early January looks bad, but I think not really bad enough to deny Trump the presidency. 

However, an even more interesting pattern sets up for early April when Saturn stations retrograde.  On April 6th, Saturn stations at 3 Sagittarius and will then begin its four-month backward journey through the sky.  What's important to note is that this will align exactly with Trump's Mars at 3 Leo.  This is not a full-strength Saturn aspect, but I think it is an alignment with teeth.  Saturn-Mars aspects coincide with times of intense effort and stress and if other influences are negative, it can represent a big setback.   And there are other negative influences.  A lot of them.  Saturn itself will retrograde back over his Moon-Ketu conjunction -- not good at all for progress and success as it is more likely to indicate oppressive situations.  Transiting Rahu will be bearing down on his Ascendant at 6 Leo.  The exact conjunction occurs in April at the same time Saturn aligns with his Mars and then turns retrograde.  And then incredibly enough, Uranus (instability, change) is due to exactly square his Saturn (discipline, order) in April. 

More amazingly, Uranus will enter the sign of sidereal Aries on the day before Saturn turns retrograde -- April 6th.  It's definitely worth circling your calendar since Uranus sign changes have a track record of correlating with shocks and surprises.  The Brexit vote occurred when Uranus previously entered Aries on June 24th.  After its retrograde cycle for most of 2016, it again enters the sign of Ram in early April where it will remain for the next seven years. 

Since Putin's Mars is exactly aligned with Trump's Mars, that Saturn station will hit both of them at the same time.  Saturn will exactly conjoin Putin's Mars in early April and indicates a time of intense stress and conflict.  As I noted in last week's post on the Electoral College, one peculiar feature of Hillary Clinton's chart was a minor progressed Jupiter station in -- you guessed it -- early April.  Jupiter brings rewards and gains while Saturn typically presides over losses.  Is it possible that Hillary will enjoy some schadenfreude at this time at Donald's expense?  Yes, it's very possible but exactly what is hard to say. 

I'm thinking of a few possible scenarios here. One is that even if Trump is sworn-in on January 20th, the investigation may be ongoing in his first months as president.  That seems more likely than not.  But the investigation may reveal some embarrassing evidence for Trump that seriously undermines his legitimacy.  The Left has already essentially gone on notice to deny Trump's legitimacy, but I wonder if there will be more evidence and scandal during February and March.  Worst case, Trump could be forced to resign.  A lesser scenario would be that his errors of moral judgment are brought to light (e.g. his tax returns are finally made public) and his standing is diminished by a broader segment of the American public.  Hillary would certainly welcome that development, even if it meant President Pence in the worst case. An apologetic Trump seeking public forgiveness could be a kind of symbolic vindication for Hillary Clinton after their bruising campaign. 

The other scenario is more far-fetched.  That is that Hillary Clinton is awarded the presidency in April or thereabouts after a Congressional investigation.  This seems a way beyond the pale (even for me!) but it does reflect one conceivable reading of the relative strengths of the horoscopes involved.  Clinton's chart gets better in early 2017 while Trump's chart gets worse, much worse.  I will admit I am very biased in this matter so it is hard to be objective. 

So we will have some interesting times ahead.  One thing that's safe to predict is that this latest Trump reality show will remain the top-rated show on television for months to come.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks extended their recent rally last week as the ECB provided the latest fix of easy money for investors as Mario Draghi announced an extension of his QE asset purchase program.  The Dow rose by 3% on the week to 19,756 and it's up again early this week.  20,000 can't be far off now.  Indian stocks also enjoyed gains, although the Sensex added a more modest 2%.  The Sensex has also been positive this week and ended Tuesday's session at 26,697.  In last week's market forecast, I thought we might have seen more downside around the late week Sun-Saturn conjunction but this was not the case. 

This week features rising downside risk.  I'm not certain how bearish stocks will be, but Tuesday's Full Moon looks difficult.  Some kind of pullback is more likely around the Full Moon, if not exactly on Tuesday. The Fed makes its latest announcement on interest rates on Wednesday so that is another source of uncertainty for the market.  Janet Yellen will make her first public statements on the possible impact of Trump's policy plans.  And then Monday's Electoral College vote looms as Mercury turns retrograde while conjunct bearish Pluto.

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter is published every Saturday and includes extended discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Monday, December 5, 2016

US Electoral College to vote as Mercury turns retrograde

(5 December 2016) From the perspective of an outsider, one of the curiosities of American democracy is the Electoral College.   Originating in the Constitution of 1787, the Electoral College was a compromise designed to provide a buffer against direct democracy.  While some of the framers backed full and direct democracy, others were fearful of demagogues and mob rule and hence argued that political elites should have the final say in presidential elections.  The Electoral College was created to appease both sides of this debate as trusted, elite electors were chosen on the basis of the result of each state's popular vote. 

In most elections, this has been a mere formality as the popular vote and the Electoral College vote have only differed on five occasions, including three times in the 19th century before the advent of universal suffrage.  More recently, the Electoral College has come under increased scrutiny as Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the electoral college and the presidency to George W. Bush.  In last month's election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than two million votes but has lost the Electoral College to Donald Trump.  This discrepancy between the popular vote and the Electoral College has made the unexpected Trump election win even more difficult to accept for Clinton supporters. 

And this is one more reason perhaps why the US now faces the prospects of recounts in key swing states that went narrowly for Trump.  Launched by Green Party leader Jill Stein, the recounts for Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania seek to discover if the voting process may have been tampered with through the hacking of electronic voting machines.  While most observers do not expect any recount or audit of the tally to reverse the election's outcome, some computer experts have endorsed the recount initiative as a way to prove the integrity of the electoral system.

Previously, I suggested there is good reason to think we could be in for some surprises when the Electoral College finally votes on December 19th.  I was uncertain just what would transpire but the planetary alignments pointed to some kind of unusual scenario.  Mercury (rationality, communication, technology) turns retrograde early in the morning on the 19th while just one degree away from Pluto, the planet that symbolizes the application of power. 

Mercury retrograde is associated with surprises or unexpected events, especially those that result from malfunction or suspension of the status quo.  The fact that Mercury is turning retrograde just a few hours before the Electoral College casts its votes for president is a red flag that things may not unfold as normal.  The proximity of Pluto is an appropriate reflection of the day's political importance, in addition to elevated possibility that power will somehow be distorted or broken in some way by Mercury.

But the additional problem is that this Mercury Rx-Pluto conjunction is directly opposite the Sun in the US horoscope.  This opposition is exact to within one degree using the Vedic sidereal zodiac.  The Western tropical zodiac does not correct for the procession of the equinoxes so this opposition appears less urgent as it is almost three degrees away.  The Sun represents leaders and government and the Mercury Rx-Pluto opposition would appear to be inimical to the smooth transfer of power.

In previous posts, I wondered whether "faithless electors" would somehow change their Electoral College vote to deny Donald Trump from reaching the 270 needed to become president.  While there is a small movement afoot spearheaded by two Democrat electors to achieve this, it seems very unlikely to go anywhere.  There has been no new damaging revelations about Trump in the weeks following the election so the case for GOP electors to suddenly change their vote to some other more moderate Republican is quite weak.  

At the same time, it is possible that we will see only a handful of faithless electors act in a symbolic protest but not enough to deny Trump getting to 270.  I could wrong about this but the planets seem to be pointing to something more tangible that a purely symbolic protest.

But perhaps the recounts offer a more plausible scenario for surprises on Dec 19th.  If large irregularities are found, then it could lead to a call for a larger recount process across more states.  This could delay the voting of the Electoral College in affected states thus preventing Trump from reaching 270 on December 19th.  I still can't bring myself to think that somehow Hillary Clinton will win the presidency come January 20th, but the possibility of a deeper political deadlock and dispute is quite real, even if Trump carries the day in the end.  Remember that Donald Trump's horoscope is quite afflicted on Dec 19th so he will likely be unhappy with the result of the vote.  Again, it may only be a symbolic protest vote against him or it could be something bigger.  Of course, Trump's famously thin skin could reflect a lot of anger and frustration even if only a symbolic handful of electors voted against him.

The Electoral College: September 6, 1787

What I find especially intriguing is that the horoscope for the Electoral College itself is activated in a negative way.  The Electoral College was created on September 6, 1787 as part of the Constitutional Convention.   Even just looking at simple transits, we can see why the Electoral College is coming in for more criticism.  Saturn is closely square the Sun (23 Scorpio) while Rahu conjoins Venus and aspects natal Rahu (North Lunar Node) and Ketu (South Lunar Node) aspects the Mars-Ketu-Moon conjunction.   But these afflictions may reflect the increasingly untenable situation of the Electoral College itself in light of the large discrepancy between the popular vote and final outcome in last month's election.   More people than ever before are discussing the possibility of eliminating the EC altogether, even if it will be very difficult to accomplish politically. 

But the short term transits on Dec 19th also point to more specific problems.  Mars will oppose Mercury (error, frustration) and the Sun will oppose Mars (intense energy, disputes).  Again, this could merely reflect the fact that Trump gets 270+ in the vote and thus crystallizes the view in many people that the EC has outlived its usefulness.  However, I think it also is an appropriate astrological signature of an event which creates disorder and breaks with the status quo.  Trump's horoscope does look fairly troubled in January so it is possible this could be the result of a period of uncertainty resulting from a delayed or protracted Electoral College vote. 

If there is a delay or unexpected result on December 19th, I will post a follow-up on possible resolution scenarios for January and beyond.   As I noted last month, Hillary Clinton's chart is strongly activated on Inauguration Day which it really shouldn't be if she is only attending as a guest.  While she could be the special guest of honor at a mass woman's protest planned for Washington at that time, it still looks odd to me.  And to make things more intriguing, both Bill and Hillary Clinton have minor progressed Jupiter direct stations just three weeks apart in late March and early April.  The progressed Jupiter direct station is a classic indication of a gain or reward, usually involving status or career.  When I originally noticed these stations while doing her chart analysis back in 2015, I just assumed they were slightly-off timed hits (but still pretty close) that reflected her election win.  Then after her defeat, I surmised the Jupiter stations would pertain to something else entirely such as major new career-related appointments.  We shall see.  As usual in modern astrology, the questions outnumber the answers. 

Weekly Market Forecast

US stocks traded mostly lower last week ahead as traders took profits from the recent Trump rally.  While the Dow was largely unchanged, broader indexes like the S&P 500 were modestly lower on the week.  Indian stocks also ended last week lower ahead of key political votes in the Eurozone over the weekend.  Stocks have bounced here on Monday despite the defeat of the Italian reforms and the resignation of PM Renzi.  While Renzi's defeat is a net negative factor, the market is now fully expecting the ECB to announce an increase its QE program when it meets on Thursday in order to placate nervous investors.  Last week's market forecast suggested the higher probability of declines, especially in the late week on the multi-planet alignment of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

This week again contains some downside risk, especially in the US.  The Sun-Saturn conjunction is exact after the close on Friday but I would expect some late week selling in any event.  We could see more gains in the first half of the week although the short term aspects do not look particularly convincing on that score. 

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter is published every Saturday and includes extended discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Monday, November 28, 2016

India's Modi gambles on demonetisation

(28 November 2016) Short term pain, long term gain.  That is what India's PM Narendra Modi is hoping for following his bold move to remove 86% of the currency in circulation after his unprecedented 8th of November televised address to the nation.  Modi's courageous announcement to remove all 500 and 1000 rupee notes ($7 and $14 USD) from circulation is intended to rein in corruption, tax avoidance and the outsized role of "black money" in the Indian economy. 

This has created huge disruption verging on economic chaos in India where over 90% of all transactions are conducted in cash.  Economic activity is down for the simple reason that there isn't enough cash to pay for goods and services.  For now, most of the Indian people support Modi's noble effort as the government tries to force more people into the modern banking system.  But how long will the goodwill last?

Modi's demonetisation plan has been plagued with setbacks since its announcement.  ATMs were not adapted beforehand to dispense the new 2000 Rs notes.  There also weren't enough of the new 500 Rs notes to replace the old ones taken out of circulation.  And the government has been changing the rules and exemptions to the new law on an almost daily basis thus creating more confusion and consternation. 

By all accounts, the roll-out of demonetisation has been botched and Modi has been forced to appear on national television to plead for patience.  Modi remains enormously popular and so far most of the people are still behind him and quite willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in the effort to reduce corruption and to enhance the state's ability to fund infrastructure improvements. But despite its rosy long term outlook, India's economic future now contains an added measure of uncertainty after this policy shock. 

Sad to say, the stars do not favour a quick or easy return to normal in India's economy.  While Mr. Modi's announcement should be commended for its willingness to tackle endemic problems, the planetary alignments look troubled for much of 2017 in the relevant charts.  To be sure, these troubles may not necessarily directly stem from demonetisation, but there is an overlap in the key horoscopes that makes me think that demonetisation will be a drag on the economy for longer than the government is projecting.  The fallout may be such that government will lose a lot of support and Modi himself will come under intense criticism and stress.

There are four charts worth consulting in this regard.  1) the Indian national horoscope 2) Narendra Modi's individual horoscope 3) PM Modi's swearing-in chart and 4) the horoscope of the 8th November demonetisation announcement itself.  Let's take a brief look at each.

The 1947 Indian independence chart shows the problem clearly: on 8th November, Saturn formed a near-exact 120 degree alignment between Saturn at 21 Scorpio (loss, disruption) and Venus at 22 Cancer (money, happiness).  While this isn't a full strength Vedic aspect of Saturn, it is nonetheless exact and hence has sufficient power to inflict damage on the economy.  We can also see the shocking effect of the announcement through the near-exact opposition exact of Mars (5 Capricorn) to the Moon (4 Cancer).  The Moon represents the people as a whole as well as the emotions of the country. 

The uncertain future is seen through the transits of Saturn and the Lunar nodes, Rahu and Ketu.  Saturn will continue to move forward into early Sagittarius (the 8th house) early in 2017 until March and April.  The difficulty here is that Saturn will oppose the 2nd house of wealth and assets and will come very close to an exact opposition aspect to Uranus (instability, sudden events) and Mars (conflict, violence).  This aspect would appear to be antithetical to a quick return to strong economic growth in Q1.   And then Ketu will conjoin the 10th house cusp (leaders, government) in April while Rahu conjoins the 4th house cusp.  The Nodes are often destabilizing and suggest more political uncertainty in Q1 and Q2 2017.  I wonder if there will be a loss of confidence in the ruling BJP-led coalition.  It's possible.

Even more troubling is that transiting Saturn will turn retrograde and will align with the Sun almost exactly in July and August at 27 Scorpio.  The Sun (28 Cancer) represents government and leaders and this Saturn transit may reflect intense stress on Mr. Modi himself.  The government's popularity is likely to suffer by this time.  It is difficult to predict what may transpire here.  Modi may be forced to retreat on some of this plans or the government may come under formal censure for some reason.   As an added planetary burden, transiting Rahu will conjoin the Sun in this summer period.  Changes in government are likely, either in terms of actual policy content or in terms of  personnel or coalition partners.

Modi's chart also looks very afflicted in 2017.  He was born with a rare conjunction of Saturn (discipline, focus), Sun (self, ego), Mercury (intellect, communication), and Ketu (innovation, iconclasm).  While this has helped him rise to great heights in his life, it will come under the affliction of the Saturn square transit next year.  Saturn will align closely with all of these planets throughout the year within just a few degrees.  It is likely to coincide with major new obstacles and an increase in stress beyond what he is already feeling now.

Modi's swearing-in chart also looks troubled next year.  Again, the problem is the Saturn transit of early Sagittarius.  The April retrograde station at 3 Sagittarius will exactly oppose Mercury, the planet of commerce.  This is a very bad indication for the economy.   Moreover, Saturn will also align with the Venus-Ketu conjunction at 3-4 Aries.  It is possible this Saturn transit may not reflect the ongoing problems of demonetisation but rather economic hardship in general.  However, given the central role of Saturn here, there is a good chance that Modi's policies will come under criticism. Also note that Saturn will transit back into Scorpio during the summer and will station near the equal 2nd house cusp (29 Scorpio) in August.  The 2nd house represents wealth, assets and the economy as a whole.

Finally, the horoscope for demonetisation (8 Nov 2016, 8.15 pm IST ) itself offers a challenging picture.  This is perhaps the most intriguing chart of all.  The prominent and favourable placement of the Moon (the people) and Venus (happiness, wealth) near the 9th and 7th house cusps, respectively, supports the likelihood of the ultimate success of Modi's plan.  And yet the chart is mixed at best given the difficult placement of Lagnesh, Mercury, in the last degree of Libra. 

By transit, we can see that Saturn will afflict both the Moon and Venus in 2017.  The Saturn-Venus conjunction may be felt as soon as December and will last for most of 2017.  This is an indication of the significant economic drag of demonetisation.  I would think that the pessimistic forecast of a 2% reduction of GDP from this policy may be closer to the mark given this transit.  But Saturn will also cast its full strength 3rd house aspect onto the Moon for most of 2017.  This could manifest as a loss of Modi's popularity and suffering of the people.  It is a very difficult double affliction in that regard. 

In summary, I think Prime Minister Modi is going to need all the help he can get.  The planets suggest the overall economic situation may well get worse before it gets better.  We may have to wait until 2018 before the disruptive effects of demonetisation are finally over and done with.  Jupiter's entry into Libra late in 2017 may bring about some improvement although it is the conjunction with the natal Mercury (29 Libra) in March 2018 which could finally signal relief and a definite path forward for the economy.

Weekly Market Forecast

Meanwhile, Indian stocks bounced off technical support last week as bargain hunters moved in.  The Sensex moved back above 26,000 and was mostly unchanged in Monday trading.  US stocks extended their Trump rally for a third week as the prospect of higher interest rates did not dampen sentiment.  The Dow hit new all-time highs above 19,000 and is slightly lower in early Monday trading. 

In last week's market forecast, I thought there was a risk of some downside on the midweek Mercury-Saturn conjunction.  However, the negative effect was limited to emerging markets as the US Dollar continued its ascent thus providing an alternative destination for "hot money".   My caution notwithstanding, the US election has yet to manifest any negative effects in the stock market although I should note that a recount is now underway in Wisconsin.  It seems extremely unlikely to change the final result but I still believe there is good reason to think that there is yet another chapter to be written on this historic election.  Betting markets now have Hillary Clinton up to a 20-1 chance of winning the presidency.  This is up from 100-1 on the day after the election.  In recent days, Clinton's odds have even been as a high as 8-1.  I think the odds will continue to improve in the days ahead.  So far, financial markets have not priced in the possibility of any further surprises on this front.  This may change soon enough.

This week would appear to hint at some downside.  There is a multi-planet alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto and Mars.  Multi-planet alignments are tricky to predict since they are often positive by nature regardless of what planets are involved.  At the same time, they can correlate with changes in trend.  This week Jupiter aspects Mars late in the week which may be bullish but at the same time bearish Saturn also closely aspects Mars.  These aspects may well cancel each other out, but I think markets are looking vulnerable here, especially in the US and Europe. December's Saturn-Uranus alignment looks too unstable even for Santa Claus and his seasonal rally.

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter is published every Saturday and includes extended discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Trumponomics and the US economy: the next four years

(21 November 2016) Donald Trump is bold, if nothing else.  The incoming Trump administration intends to begin its term with a bang by boosting economic growth through a massive $1 Trillion infrastructure program in addition to re-negotiation several trade deals.  Financial markets have welcomed these plans as the stock market has risen alongside the US Dollar since the November 8th election.  Investors are expecting higher growth and more jobs from Trumponomics but it remains to be seen how effective it will be.  While infrastructure spending can raise growth, any interruption in trade could be more problematic as the experience of the 1930s reminds us.  The retreat into protectionism and nationalism not only exacerbated the Depression, but it may also have indirectly led to World War 2.

Whatever the merits of the plan, the planets do not offer support for significantly stronger economic growth over the next four years.  Indeed, there is a heightened risk of recession during this time.  We can see the potential pitfalls in the USA horoscope.  While there are any number of factors we could look at, let's simplify it to just two: dasha periods and transits.  When we analyze national charts, it is best to keep our variables to a minimum.  Economic activity is seen through the 2nd house of wealth and assets, the 2nd house lord, the 11th house of income and gains, and the 11th house lord.  The Ascendant, Sun and Moon may also provide supplementary information depending on whether they are influenced by benefic or malefic transits.  The economy will tend to do well when these chart factors are influenced by benefics like Jupiter, Rahu, as well as the outers Uranus, Neptune and Pluto when in soft aspect.  The economy will tend to contract when influenced by Saturn, Ketu, and the outers when in hard aspect. 

Let's take a look at the transit picture first.  A key reason why I am less than optimistic about the the next few years is that Saturn will transit through sidereal Sagittarius.  It begins in late January 2017 and continues through all of 2018 and some of 2019.  This transit happens every 29 or 30 years and is associated with economic slowdowns.  The reason isn't hard to see when you look at the USA chart.  Saturn is the planet of pessimism and restriction and Sagittarius is the sign of the Ascendant, which symbolizes the country as a whole.  That in itself is a difficult influence.  But Saturn also opposes all those planets in Gemini: Mars, Venus, Jupiter and the Sun.  We could also include Mercury in early Cancer since Mercury is the significator of economic activity. 

Venus is one of those Gemini planets and its affliction by Saturn is a double whammy since it rules the 11th house of income and gains.  The Saturn opposition to Venus will therefore tend to depress economic activity.  The Saturn transit of Sagittarius is uniquely damaging to the US economy since it also casts its full-strength 3rd house aspect to the Moon, symbolizing the people as a whole.  This can create a pessimistic mood for many months due to the slow velocity of Saturn.  Saturn also casts its other full-strength 10th house aspect to the 10th house which contains the sign of Virgo.  We can see that Virgo is another very important sign for the US economy because it contains Saturn (24 Virgo) which rules the 2nd house of wealth in the horoscope (i.e. Capricorn).  

So Saturn's transit of Sagittarius actually negatively impacts most of the planets in the chart.  It is not surprising then when we discover that Saturn transited Sagittarius during the worst economic depression in US history.  Saturn entered Sagittarius in December 1928 and exited in December 1931.  If we include early Capricorn due to the presence of Mercury in early Cancer, then that Saturn transit influence was in effect through much of 1932.  This was the low point of the Depression.

This doesn't mean that the US is facing another Great Depression, however.  Saturn transits though Sagittarius every 30 years so we also need to account for the relative prosperity during its previous transits in 1987-1990 and 1958-1961.  Actually there were mild recessions in both those periods also although they were far less painful than the early 1930s.  Why?

The other modulating factor is dasha periods.  A good dasha period can significantly offset the effects of a bad transit.  The relatively mild recession in 1990-1991 coincided with a Saturn transit of Sagittarius but the US was running the largely positive Venus-Mercury dasha period.  Both planets are natural benefics and both are only modestly afflicted in the chart as Mercury is in a wide conjunction with Rahu in the 8th house while Venus is nicely placed in the 7th alongside the Sun and Jupiter albeit receiving a square aspect from Saturn. 

The previous transit of Saturn through Sagittarius in 1958-1961 occurred during Mercury-Rahu and Mercury-Jupiter dashas.   Mercury-Rahu would be fairly mixed since both are situated in the difficult 8th house (even if Mercury is generally positive) but the subsequent Mercury-Jupiter dasha period is quite positive so that may have been one reason why the recession was not severe. 

The unique problem with the 1930s Saturn transit of Sagittarius is that it occurred during a Saturn dasha period.  The Saturn dasha began in early 1929 and continued through the 1930s and into the early 1940s.  The transit therefore compounded the affliction that was already underway from the dasha period. The result was the worst economic contraction in history.

When Saturn enters Sagittarius this time around on January 25th, the US will be running the Rahu-Rahu dasha period.  Rahu is the Sanskrit name of the North Lunar Node and is associated with instability, change and distortions.  It can be positive in some circumstances, although its 8th house placement makes that more difficult.  It is not surprising perhaps that Trump's win has occurred during a Rahu dasha period since it represents a major break with the status quo and radical change.  And yet the Rahu influence does not seem positive on balance.  Therefore, I would expect the US to have a recession that was more severe than in 1990 or 1960 but probably not as bad as the early 1930s.

We should also note that when positive transits are dominant, the Rahu dasha period could bring important research and innovation.  Benefits can also derive from the assets of other people (allies, friends, foreigners).  But when malefics transits are stronger as will likely be the case most of the time when Saturn is in Sagittarius, we could see scandals and mysteries exposed that cause disruption of the status quo.  A positive spin on that might suggest that the "draining of the swamp" in Washington will uncover some major corruption.  And yet the Rahu placement in the 8th house definitely carries a default negativity.  Knowledge and clarity may be gained in this process but it may not be helpful or used constructively.  It looks like an uncertain time. 

Even after the Saturn transit, I would think the nodal return of Rahu to its natal position in mid-2018 may well culminate these afflictions and could coincide with a major scandal that could seriously damage the administration.  I hope to revisit this possibility of a scandal or impeachment in the coming weeks.  Assuming that Trump manages to withstand the effects of some difficult transits over the next two months and is inaugurated, his administration is likely to have a tough time of it. 

Weekly Market Forecast

US stocks were generally higher last week as investors anticipated lower taxes and less regulation from the incoming Trump administration.  The Dow gained slightly on the week to finish at 18,867.  Along with most emerging markets, Indian stocks fared worse, however, on the soaring US Dollar as well as the ongoing cash shortage from the demonitisation plan.  The BSE Sensex was lower last week and has even broken below the 26,000 level in Monday trading.  In last week's market forecast, I thought the bearish alignments warranted some caution, especially later in the week after the Sun had entered Scorpio and the approach of the Mercury-Saturn conjunction.

This week also argues for caution as Mercury finally conjoins Saturn on Wednesday just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.  This is a potentially very bearish pairing since the conjunction will occur in a sensitive point in the US chart at 22 Scorpio -- in close alignment with the Sun and the Ascendant. The state of Michigan reports its election results on Tuesday so that is one possible catalyst for a market move.  The early week also seems difficult as Mars aligns with Rahu (North Node).  In any event, US stocks are looking increasingly vulnerable to declines, despite the Trumpian optimism. 

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter is published every Saturday and includes extended discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Mr. Trump goes to Washington

(14 November 2016) We're now living in a brave new Trumpworld as the transition of power moves into full gear in the White House.  President-elect Donald Trump has begun making his key appointments to his inner circle and is discussing plans for the new administration.  Criticism and opposition to the Trump presidency are persisting as protests and riots have not ceased since election night. 

Some liberal commentators are now openly discussing the chances that Trump may not even finish his four-year term due to impeachment for criminal activities.  Trump has 75 law suits outstanding against him including the Trump University trial which is slated to begin November 28th.  Other observers are painting a more hopeful future as Trump's infrastructure spending plans could well kick-start the sluggish American economy.  While media outlets are assuming an air of normalcy regarding the transition, uncertainty and trepidation are still very much in focus.

In my previous post after the Trump election win, I noted some puzzling alignments in the weeks ahead that suggested there may not be a simple path to the Trump inauguration on January 20th.  I outlined several anomalous alignments that not only reflected problems in Trump's chart at key moments such as the Electoral College vote on Dec 19th, but that Hillary Clinton's chart appeared to be more positive around those same key dates or at least they suggested some kind changes afoot.  If politics is a zero-sum game, then that could indicate some more strange twists and turns in this election before Trump is elected president. 

Of course, in this post-election interregnum, politics may not really zero-sum any more so we have to allow for the more likely possibility that Trump's setbacks do not necessarily translate to Clinton's advantage.  With the election over, it seems more likely that these alignments are mere intriguing coincidences that do not mean that Trump will somehow be denied the White House.  It may mean that Trump suffers some other significant setback which raises the possibility that he could be impeached after he assumes office.  And the shifting Clinton patterns could conceivably mean something else entirely, for example, that she and her husband discover that they will not be prosecuted by the incoming administration as Trump has threatened to do. 

And yet we should make special allowances for these unusual scenarios and recognize that there is an increased probability for Trump to be blocked or delayed from assuming the presidency.  After looking at the problem over the weekend, I still think the whole idea is a long shot but maybe not 50-1 as the betting markets would have it.  I would note that the odds of a Clinton presidency have improved since election night from 100-1 to 50-1 and 33-1 on Predictit.org.  So somebody is thinking along these lines also.  Given the planetary alignments, I would think it's more like 10-1 or 5-1 or something like that.  Still a long shot, but it is an outcome worth taking more seriously. 

There are three key time windows to watch for this possible Clinton win scenario.  The first is next week around the time of the Mercury-Saturn conjunction on Nov 21-22 just before Thanksgiving.   This conjunction occurs at 22 Scorpio which is conjunct the south Node of Uranus.  Uranus brings unexpected or sudden events, such as the stock market crash of October 1987 when Saturn was also at this point in the sky.  However, we should note that the unexpected Trump victory itself is a manifestation of this energy since Saturn was only one degree away from this point.  So it is unclear to me just how much Uranian shock will be left when Mercury also hits that point.  There could be some significant development but it may not be sufficient to fundamentally change the trajectory of a Trump presidency. 

Let's take a look at this puzzle from another angle using the Inauguration chart of President Obama on January 20, 2013.  This chart often reveals major events and situations affecting the US according to the key transit hits over the course of its four-year validity.  We can see that Saturn is there at 21 Scorpio which also happens to be the equal 8th house cusp in this horoscope.  This is a very difficult placement for any planet since the 8th house indicates setbacks, scandals, secrets and embarrassments.  As I said, the Trump win itself likely part of this placement as the entire governing elite in Washington were caught with their pants down with the rise of Trump and his unexpected win. 

The other very telling placement in this chart is that the Ketu-Neptune conjunction at 15-16 Aquarius is exactly aspecting Saturn at 16 Libra by a 120 degree trine aspect.  Saturn represents traditional government and authority structures and Ketu (South Lunar Node) embodies the notion of transcendence, change, and erasing boundaries -- a very apt description of Trump's popular uprising against globalization and the elites.  Watery Neptune is a more subtle energy that suggests dissolving or eroding.  Again, it's not out of a place here as Washington seems like it is undergoing at least as big a transformation as Reagan brought in 1980, if not more.  And Trump has spoken about "draining the swamp" of DC corruption so that seems quite Neptunian too. 

And aggressive and assertive Mars (6 Capricorn) is exactly conjunct the Sun which symbolizes leaders and executive government.  Trump's revolution is very Mars-like in its attack on the establishment as he does not mince words and is less likely to engage in Venusian diplomacy and compromise and instead prefers to wield a blunt instrument.

But if we look at the 2013 Inauguration chart for next week we see the makings of an important development.  Mercury will conjoin Saturn at 22 Scorpio in that very tense and difficult spot near the 8th house cusp.  And then Mars will join the Ketu-Neptune alignment as it squares Saturn.  This looks like an aggressive or surprising event that could shake things up again in some way.  For its part, Trump's horoscope will come under pressure from this Mars-Ketu-Neptune alignment as it impacts his Mercury.  Mercury in the 11th represents gains for Trump so this could indicate some significant change in his situation with regards to the election win and his hold on power.  It's conceivable it could be a new scandal that he has to react to although it also could indicate other developments unrelated to the election.  We will have to see how it all unfolds. 

The other interesting thing about this chart is that Venus (18 Sagittarius) will conjoin Pluto (21 Sagittarius) near the 9th house cusp.  The 9th house is believed to symbolize higher principles and law.  Venus is also conjunct Pluto in the 2013 natal chart so that is a repeating pattern which suggests some significant parts of the country experience some happiness or relief.  Since Venus symbolizes women and Pluto equates to power, it is tempting to think that Hillary Clinton could gain some benefit from this Venus-Pluto alignment which is especially prominent in this inauguration horoscope.   Tempting, but it seems like a stretch to say it could overwhelm the other factors that argue for the populist Trump uprising.

I don't want to overstate the case for a possible Clinton presidency.  At bottom, it's just a series of very interesting alignments across several charts that suggest we could see some unusual political developments between now and January 20th.  While it seems unlikely to deny Trump, they may play a role down the road in any possible impeachment proceedings against him. 

To be sure, Trump's horoscope is very afflicted for much of 2017.  Transiting Saturn hits his Moon-Ketu conjunction three times in 2017 due to retrograde motion.  It's a very difficult transit made more difficult since the Moon is weakened by debilitation in Scorpio.  The Moon represents emotions and mental health and Saturn transits can coincide with extended periods of restriction, instability and disappointment.  Trump could become even more mentally unpredictable and unhinged than he already is.  That Saturn transit hits the USA chart with full force also as it opposes the natal Mars.  This suggests 2017 will be a time of intense conflict and frustration no matter what happens.  I would not rule out any scenario here with these transits.  I hope to explore these ideas in my next post. 

Weekly Market Forecast

US Stocks were generally higher following the surprise Trump victory.  After a large 5% sell-off in the overnight futures market, buyers returned and the Dow ended last week at a new all-time record high of 18,847.   Stocks are modestly lower so far in Monday trading.  Indian stocks fared much worse, however, on the Dollar-friendly Trump win and the sudden government move to withdraw all 500 and 1000 rupee notes from circulation to combat black money and tax evasion.  The Sensex was closed Monday and finished down 2% on the week at 26,818.  These divergent outcomes make it harder to assess the accuracy last week's market forecast.  I was correct in expecting some negative reaction to the election, although US stocks recovered quickly.  I also correctly thought there would be late week gains which there were, although I underestimated the upside in the US.   Monday isn't quite a bullish as I expected so far. 

This week looks mixed at best.  We could see some further upside into Tuesday but the Sun enters sidereal Scorpio just after the US close of trading that day.  By itself, this isn't a bad influence but Saturn's placement in Scorpio could intensify negative sentiment when the Sun also enters that sign.  Moreover, the approaching Mercury-Saturn conjunction could manifest somewhat earlier than next week.  Therefore the late week is more vulnerable to declines.  There is a special risk associated with next week's Mercury-Saturn conjunction at 22 Scorpio.

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter is published every Saturday and includes extended discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Stock markets anticipate a Hillary win but post-election looks uncertain

(8 November 2016) Stock markets rose sharply on Monday after the FBI's exoneration of Hillary Clinton boosted her chances in today's election.   After suffering losses all last week on growing fears of a Trump presidency, the Dow gained more than 2% to 18,259.  Indian stocks have enjoyed a much smaller rebound early this week after last week's declines as the BSE-Sensex is still well below 28,000.  This down-then-up pattern closely adhered to my expectations in last week's market forecast as I thought the midweek entry of Mars into sidereal Capricorn would turn sentiment negative but that Monday's entry of Venus into Sagittarius would likely coincide with a recovery.  This has more or less come to pass.

The markets are counting heavily on a Clinton win and I think that is very likely going to happen. A Brexit-type Trump surprise win would likely tank stocks at least 5% in a single day. And yet, I do think that stocks have a growing downside risk here in November and December as Saturn (21 Scorpio) aligns with Pluto (21 Sagittarius) among other factors. 

This decline could be the result of purely economic factors but as I noted in yesterday's post on the election, there is a special risk of political uncertainty after Election Day.  Given he has already said the system is rigged and he may not accept the result, a market decline could also be due to a refusal by Trump to concede.  He could then subsequently mount some kind of legal challenge of the results which may delay or block the transition of power.  There could also be some additional legal problems for Hillary and Bill Clinton which could give rise to some uncertainty about the Electoral College vote on 19th December.

This is all fairly speculative, however.  I am not predicting that a some kind stalemate after 8th November is certain or even probable.  But what I am suggesting is that the planetary afflictions to the Sun in the USA chart make me think that there is a higher than normal risk of unusual stresses and tensions surrounding the post-election transfer of power.  This would create political uncertainty in the US which would negatively impact stock markets.  A large decline is even more plausible here since stocks are still close to their all-time highs so it wouldn't take much to provoke a sudden sell-off as stocks are "priced to perfection". 

And let's add to the mix this intriguing fact.  Saturn is currently transiting 21 degrees of Scorpio.  The last time Saturn was in this place in the zodiac was in October 1987 when global stock markets experienced their biggest one-day decline in history.  The October 19th crash occurred with Saturn at 22 Scorpio and Saturn is due to pass over this point in the next couple of weeks.  As it happens, the south node of Uranus of the NYSE chart is located at 22 Scorpio and may be one reason why there is an added vulnerability when Saturn crosses this point in the sky. 

A reasonable and rational skeptic would correctly note that the previous Saturn transit of 22 Scorpio back in 1957 didn't correspond with much of anything.  And that is very true: one swallow does not a summer make. A single data point is not good evidence of anything.  But given the possible uncertainty surrounding the US election and the already difficult planetary alignments, it is one more reason for investors to be very cautious in the weeks ahead.

This week there is some likelihood of some selling after the election as Mars forms a minor aspect with Saturn.  This could hit as soon as Tuesday (Election Day) and also suggests that Wednesday and Thursday could be bearish.  Transiting Mars also forms a square alignment with Saturn and Neptune in the NYSE chart so that also looks negative for the midweek period after the election.  It seems less likely there will be a huge sell-off but it may still be fairly sizable.  Let's see how this unprecedented election actually unfolds as nothing would surprise me.  Bottom line, there is definitely an added downside risk here.  Friday may see a recovery of sorts.  Early next week looks somewhat bullish on the Mercury-Venus alignment.

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter is published every Saturday and includes extended discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sun and Jupiter under pressure: FBI tightens US presidential race

(31 October 2016) The US election race has descended into chaos since the bombshell news Friday that the FBI has re-opened its investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails.  Suddenly, her steady 5-10 point lead has shrunk to 2-5 points and polls have yet to fully reflect the impact of this latest revelation.  It's unclear how much of an impact it could have on the race, although it seems certain to further narrow Clinton's lead.  That means that the election could be very close indeed. 

Unfortunately, this only heightens my fears in last week's post that the post-election period could be mired in controversy.  In last week's post on Donald Trump and his possible refusal to concede, I suggested that the planets on Election Day looked tense and conflicted.  The horoscope of the USA had several alignments which were reminiscent of the contested 2000 election which ultimately saw George W. Bush prevail over Al Gore after the latter's challenge went all the way to the Supreme Court. 

The twist in this election is that we may well be seeing some of those telling planetary afflictions already playing out before the election has actually happened.  Two of the key alignments involved afflictions to the Sun (authority, government, leaders) and Jupiter (law, tradition, moral actions).  In 2000, the Sun was afflicted by Rahu (North Lunar Node) by conjunction which symbolizes disruptions in the normal affairs of government.  At the same time, legal practices and tradition (Jupiter) were undermined  by the close aspect of Ketu (South Lunar Node) which can have temporarily corrosive effects.

Similar afflictions are in play now.  Transiting Ketu (16 Aquarius) is one degree from an exact 5th house trine aspect with Jupiter (law) at 15 Gemini just as the nation's leading law enforcement agency, the FBI under the leadership of James Comey, has been criticized for breaking with precedent.  Traditionally, the FBI has refrained from making public any knowledge of ongoing investigations lest it appear to be interfering in the electoral process.  Ketu disrupts and dissolves the planets it influences and this FBI leak has called into question the impartiality of the FBI.  It has also raises the possibility that Hillary Clinton may yet face a criminal investigation, even if she wins the election.  Either way, it is a black-eye on the US government and its hallowed democratic tradition and provides fuel for those who see the US as a superpower in decline. 

The Sun (government) is also afflicted by an opposition aspect from Pluto (power, coercion) and a quincunx aspect from Saturn (stress, frustration).  Clearly, it is a bad time for the reputation of US institutions. The opposition aspect from Mars to Mercury (3 Cancer) highlights these problems and suggests they could be in play through the week and come to a head next weekend just before the election.   Sad to say, this increasingly bizarre election isn't over yet. 

Actually, the current uproar over Hillary's emails were fairly clearly seen in her chart.  I lament the fact that I didn't post about it last week as I thought it likely wouldn't change the outcome of the election so I didn't mention it.  At the time of the FBI leak, Mars (28 Sagittarius) was exactly aspecting Saturn (28 Cancer) by full-strength 8th house quincunx aspect  Today and tomorrow, Mars enters Capricorn and will fall under the aspect of Rahu (0 Taurus).  This Mars transit would be even more potent if we use the 8.00 a.m. chart that puts the transiting Mars near the 3rd house cusp.  But this Mars alignment may well be the peak of Hillary's troubles for now.  I suspect that she will begin to find her footing in the next day or two and continue to move forward into Election Day next Tuesday the 8th.

On the other hand, Donald Trump may find himself on the defensive once again as Mars opposes his Saturn and Venus this week.  The Saturn aspect occurs on Tuesday with the Venus (2 Capricorn)  hit due on Wednesday and Thursday.  And then Mars will cast its 8th house aspect on to the natal Mars (3 Leo) over the weekend.  This is usually an unhelpful aspect and suggests that the flow of news events will go against his wishes.  All these Mars hits look good for his energy levels but the aspects seem negative in their outcomes. 

On Election Day, Mars (6 Capricorn) aligns almost exactly with his Ascendant.  While there are many other indications in play, this is not a good transit to have for winning.  That's another reason why I think Trump will lose this election.  And if the election is very close, that fiery Mars influence raises the probability that he will legally contest it.  Mars symbolizes anger, conflict and frustration.  I am still uncertain if this will really happen now since some of those planets have already manifested in the form of the FBI email circus.  And yet I have to think that Trump will try to prolong his time in the spotlight for as long as possible.  With Hillary Clinton likely under investigation well past the election, there is good reason to think that her administration will come under intense scrutiny for the foreseeable future and may be seen as illegitimate.  The election win may prove to be a poisoned chalice. 

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks fell modestly last week and early this week as investors reacted to the new level of uncertainty in the US election.  The Dow edged lower but remained above the 18,000 level while India's Sensex slipped below the 28,000 level ahead of the Diwali holiday closing. This modestly negative outcome was in line with expectations as I suggested in last week's market forecast that stocks could move lower on the late week Mars-Uranus square aspect. 

This week will likely see more downside as Mars enters Capricorn into midweek.  While Mars is said to be exalted (i.e. more able to function constructively) in Capricorn, the sign ingresses of Mars lean bearish in any event.  The late week could see a bounce but it seems less likely to reverse the negative fortunes for the week.  While next Monday could be positive on the entry of Venus into Sagittarius, there is good reason to be cautious on the day after the election, November 9th, as Mars forms a minor aspect with Saturn.  Markets may be seeking safe havens after the results of the US election. 

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter is published every Saturday and includes extended discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Will Trump concede if he loses the election?

(25 October 2016) With just two weeks left in the race for the US presidency, polls are showing Hillary Clinton with a steady, if somewhat less than comfortable lead.  Last week's third and final debate was contentious but appeared to change little.  While the debate performances were fairly evenly matched, Donald Trump undermined his cause by insisting he would not necessarily accept the result of the election on November 8th. 

Ever since Trump has fallen behind in the polls, he has claimed the election is rigged against him and has railed against the media, the Washington elite and anybody else who disagrees with him.  He has since waffled back and forth on this question but there remains some possibility that he may not concede if he loses.  In a worse case scenario, he could even take the matter to the courts and somehow disrupt the transition of power that normally takes between the November election and Inauguration Day on January 20th when the next president is sworn in.  

Will Trump concede if he loses?   Astrology notwithstanding, life teaches us that betting on the status quo -- that things will probably continue as they are -- is usually the wisest choice.  Despite his bluster, the sensible view is that Trump will probably give in to pressure from his campaign and from what is left of the GOP and not legally contest the election results.  And yet the planetary alignments on Election Day and on Inauguration Day seem more active than they otherwise should be in a normal election cycle.  Given what he has already stated and what the planets may be hinting at, there is reason to think that he could follow through on his threats to challenge the results.   While I probably wouldn't bet too much against the status quo, it's interesting to ponder the possible alternatives.  

What caught my eye were some similarities between the USA chart this year and in November 2000 when Democrat Al Gore legally contested the results after a very narrow and controversial result in the state of Florida.  While some uncertainty remained about the Florida recount given the whole "hanging chad" fiasco, the Supreme Court halted the recount and awarded the election to Republican George W. Bush.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Gore's legal challenge famously occurred when Mercury had stationed direct (S.D.) on the night of the election in a close square aspect with natal Pluto in the USA chart.  Mercury symbolizes rationality and calculation while square aspects are often problematic and can indicate a disruption in these processes.  Pluto symbolizes power so the Mercury-Pluto aspect suggested a suspension of rationality in the service of power.  

But other politically-relevant planets were also afflicted in 2000.   Jupiter represents laws and constitutional tradition and it was in a near-exact trine aspect with Ketu, the planet of change.  Ketu's penchant for destabilization therefore undermined Jupiter's inclination for adhering to convention.   This was one element in the larger picture of the unprecedented Gore-Bush election.   The Sun represents the government as a whole and a general sense of authority.  This was also afflicted by the conjunction of transiting Rahu within one degree (23 Gemini).  Like Ketu, Rahu (North Lunar Node) is disruptive of the status quo and its transits to the Sun can reflect a time when authority is challenged and comes under increased scrutiny.    Uranus (23 Capricorn) was also in a close quincunx alignment with the Sun and this may have intensified the power of Rahu to disrupt the normal functioning of government (Sun). 

Shorter-term aspects were also in play on the night of the 2000 election.  Transiting Venus was opposite Mars indicating an agitated and unsettled state of mind throughout the country.  Mars was square the Ascendant and this may also have reflected an unusual and sudden development whereby the country did not have a newly elected government.  

Perhaps most crucially, Saturn (4 Taurus) was casting its close third house, 60-degree sextile aspect to Mercury (3 Cancer) on election day.  Saturn is a disruptive influence and its aspect here on Mercury as a very appropriate indication of frustration, irrationality, and disappointment.   Most fundamentally, Saturn symbolizes loss and its aspect to Mercury in November 2000 represented a temporary loss of rationality and the ability to solve problems logically.  The recount was one of the most bizarre and embarrassing episodes in US history as in some polling officials could not even agree if a vote had been cast for Gore or Bush.  This was the famous "hanging chad" ballot which seemed to crystallize the arbitrariness of the US electoral system.  Saturn's ability to distort and deny upended Mercury's rationality.  

This time around we can see some of the same afflictions to Jupiter (law), the Sun (government) and Mercury (rationality).    However, they seem to be significantly less intense than they were in 2000.   Jupiter (15 Gemini) is again afflicted by Ketu (16 Aquarius) in November and suggests that the constitution and legal conventions may be under greater pressure than normal.  By itself, it may not mean that Trump requests a legal challenge.  But it does seem to indicate the likelihood that legal traditions are coming under greater scrutiny.  It is also possible that much of this transit affliction to Jupiter has been fulfilled here in October as Trump has called into question so much of conventional thinking about law and elections. 

And as in 2000, we can see the Sun (22 Gemini) under affliction as Pluto (21 Sagittarius) opposes it while Saturn (21 Scorpio) is in a close 210 degree alignment.  While the Saturn affliction is not full-strength (it is not a Vedic aspect) it still matters and should be seen as a time of great stress on US government and its institutions.  The fact that both planets are in near-exact alignments to the Sun at the time of the election should be worrying.    Of course, it could be just some empty Trump grandstanding against the forces that be, but it could be something a bit more tangible.  Again, Venus is opposite Mars showing agitation and a less than contented mood among the population.

And as in 2000, Mercury is afflicted.  However, this time around it is afflicted by Mars, not Saturn.  Mars brings its own list of problems but since it is a faster moving planet, its damage may be less thoroughgoing.  Mars (5 Capricorn) is conjunct the US Pluto (6 Capricorn) and opposite Mercury (3 Cancer).   There is definitely a ratcheting up of intensity here on election day, as it there could be confrontation and even violence at some polling places.  Some Trump supporters have been calling for careful monitoring of some polling places in order to stop voter fraud.  This has already been a flash point of contention in the campaign and could boil over.  The placement of Mars opposite Mercury on election day is one more reason why this could be a significant problem.  The Mars opposition is actually closer a few days before election day so we could see some tension manifest on that front a bit earlier, such as Nov 3-6.  Either way, Mars connotes aggression and assertion and would seem to be unusual and inappropriate at a time of an election.

And yet the absence of any heavy Saturn aspect to Mercury makes me less certain that Trump will actually go ahead an launch a full legal challenge.  Given the planetary picture here, it's certainly more possible than in any normal election.   Nonetheless, the multiple afflictions to the USA horoscope in early November are cause for some concern.   Whatever happens, it seems likely that the rule of law and the stability of the US authority structure will come under increased stress around the time of the election. 

The other chart that got me intrigued about a possible Trump challenge is the Inauguration chart for January 20th.  Normally, this chart should be mostly unafflicted as the day is ceremonial in nature without much controversy.  But this time we see that the USA Mars (0 Gemini) is closely afflicted by both Mars (0 Pisces) and Saturn (29 Scorpio).   This double affliction of Mars suggests conflict and controversy are more likely at the time of the inauguration.  Mars brings an added risk of violence, of course, so that is also something that we should look out for.  But the Saturn affliction is more worrying as it may indicate a deeper antagonism with the whole process of the presidential inauguration. 

Given that Trump has already spoken of the possibility of challenging the results and the planets do not look straightforward on election day, it is possible we could see significant protests in Washington on January 20th.  We could also see Trump organizing something like a parallel inauguration just to raise the stakes against the incoming Clinton administration that he sees as illegitimate and corrupt.   Admittedly, I'm only thinking out loud here but these sorts of scenarios are more likely given these charts.  We could also see some non-Trump-related developments around the time of the inauguration that may contain significant Martian elements of conflict and violence either at home or abroad.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks have continued their mostly sideways movement for another week.   The Dow is down a bit today (Tuesday) but it is actually marginally higher over last week due to Monday's gain as it is holds above the crucial 18,000 level.  India's Sensex has largely followed suit as it is still trading above 28,000.  In last week's market forecast, I thought we might have seen more late week declines on the Mars-Pluto conjunction but the downside was very modest indeed. 

This week offers the possibility of more upside into Wednesday's Sun-Mercury conjunction.  However, the late week is more problematic as Mars squares Uranus while Venus approaches its conjunction with Saturn.  This conjunction is exact on Sunday the 30th but it is possible it could produce fallout earlier than that.    And after that, November looms as Saturn remains in its tense alignment with Rahu and Neptune.

For more details and analysis on market trends for this week, this month and this year, please check out my weekly MVA Investor Newsletter.  The newsletter is published every Saturday and includes extended discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.