Monday, April 25, 2016

Hillary Clinton widens lead over Bernie Sanders

(25 April 2016) With another win likely win in tomorrow's Pennsylvania Democratic Primary, Hillary Clinton looks poised to win the nomination in the race for the White House. Although socialist challenger Bernie Sanders has staged a surprisingly impressive campaign thus far, most polls show Clinton winning Pennsylvania easily.  Last week, Hillary cruised to a comfortable win in her home state of New York and essentially put the race out of reach. 

Interestingly, national polls still show Sanders in a virtual tie with Ms. Clinton.  But national polls don't count for much as it's all about the delegate count at this point, as her lead in pledged delegates is now over 250 and likely to grow as several pro-Hillary states such as Pennsylvania and Connecticut hold their primaries tomorrow.  It's an uphill battle for Sanders supporters who are now wondering if all the grassroots enthusiasm for Bernie may not be enough to translate into more actual delegate support before the end of the primaries in June and before the convention in late July.

My reading of the charts indicates that Hillary Clinton is destined to win both the nomination and the presidency.  The picture is not as clearcut as I would like to see, but on balance, I think Hillary will be the next tenant in the White House.  But how she gets there may include some unexpected twists and turns.  Given the astonishing rise of Donald Trump on the Republican side, nothing should surprise us about the current election cycle.   The American electorate is angry and is sending a message to Washington and the political elites that the status quo is no longer acceptable.

Back in early February, I predicted that Hillary Clinton might suffer some electoral defeats in February and early March but would eventually take a commanding lead by mid-April. This has more or less been the case as Bernie won some early primaries that made the race very competitive before Super Tuesday on March 1st.  Bernie's political betting odds to win the nomination peaked in mid-February around 25% on   While Bernie has won some some additional primaries in April, they were all in small states and have not changed the expectation that Ms. Clinton will win the nomination.   Hillary is now seen as having a 95% chance of winning the nomination.

While Hillary looks likely to win tomorrow in Pennsylvania and Maryland, her horoscope does suggest some problems to her campaign quite soon, perhaps over the next couple of weeks.  There are a few different indications for trouble but I suspect the Mercury retrograde station on Thursday, April 28th could be the focal point.  Mercury stations retrograde at 29 Aries which is just one degree from her natal Rahu (North Lunar Node).  This can represent unexpected developments that derail plans.  The fact that Hillary's Rahu is in a tight square with Saturn only makes this Mercury station that much more potent.  It is not what I would call a high probability negative planetary pattern but it definitely contains some likelihood that Hillary will have to do some quick thinking and adapt to changing circumstances.

I'm not sure what this Mercury-Rahu conjunction might represent.  It may simply be poorer than expected primary performances, starting with Pennsylvania and Maryland tomorrow or in early May in Indiana.  Or on a more general level, it could be some negative development about her past, such as the ongoing FBI email investigation, her controversial Goldman Sachs speeches or even something like a betrayal of a former ally.  She could see her forward momentum disrupted somewhat in the days ahead, even if it may not do much to fundamentally change the direction of the race.  This could give the Sanders' camp some hope although she may not lose too much of her lead in the political betting markets.  (N.B.  Betting markets are usually more telling than polls)   But she will likely win California on June 7th (even if narrowly) and therefore will have the most delegates on the final day of the convention on July 28th.

Hillary Clinton's birth time remains a matter of some conjecture.  Most astrologers (including me) favour 8.00 a.m. although 8 p.m. is used by some.  Other times are also in circulation. For this reason, her chart is somewhat uncertain.  That's why I like to confirm possible future trends against the chart of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.  If she is doing well, then Bill's chart should surely also be looking fairly positive.  Bill Clinton's birth time is well established at 8.51 a.m.

We can see that some of that possible turbulence in the coming days in his chart also as Rahu (26 Leo) aspects his natal Moon (27 Aries) just as Mercury stations just two degrees away at 29 Aries on Thursday, April 28th.  The Sun-Mercury conjunction on May 9th will also align with both transiting Rahu and his natal Rahu so that is another time window when the Clinton campaign will be on the defensive with an unexpected problem.  As I said, however, I don't think this will change the race very much.

I'm not sure if the Democratic convention will be contested by challenger Bernie Sanders. It's possible, but I think Hillary will prevail anyway.  Bill Clinton's Moon receives a near-exact aspect of Jupiter (27 Leo) at the time of the convention.  This looks likely to represent a Hillary win.

As I mentioned, there could be some setbacks for the Clinton campaign during the run-up general election.  The late August Mars-Saturn conjunction at 15 Scorpio looks like it could afflict the Clinton campaign.  It squares daughter Chelsea's Sun (15 Leo) exactly.  Nonetheless, both Hillary and Bill have some very appropriate winning patterns in their charts.  However, these appear to be focused on early 2017.  For example, Bill has a minor progressed Jupiter direct station in March 2017.  This is a very positive indicator of success, even if it occurs two months after the Inauguration on January 20th and fully four months after the election.  As it happens, Hillary's chart also features a a minor progressed Jupiter station in March 2017.  This seems a little later than I would like to see for an election win in November, but it nonetheless augurs well for her electoral chances.

If we look ahead to election day on November 8th, we can see that transiting Jupiter (18 Virgo) is exactly conjunct Bill Clinton's Venus (18 Virgo).  Since Venus symbolizes the wife, one would think this is good news for Hillary and hence a victory against Cruz, Trump or whomever is on the GOP side.  Jupiter takes on an added resonance for Hillary here since it rules Pisces which is Bill's 7th house of marriage.  Since Jupiter is a benefic planets in most situations, this conjunction is another reason why a Hillary Clinton win is more likely in November.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks drifted higher last week on positive corporate earnings and a rebound in crude oil prices.  The Dow gained less than 1% on the week closing at 18,003 and the Indian Sensex also posted gains finishing at 25,838.  This positive outcome was in line with expectations from last week's market forecast, as I thought the Venus-Uranus conjunction would likely correspond with some upside.

This week has started modestly lower across the board, most likely due to the conjunction of the Moon with malefics Mars and Saturn as I noted in my weekend newsletter.   Of course, this week the focus will be on Wednesday's Fed meeting where Janet Yellen will provide the latest guidance on interest rates and the economy.  Most observers do not expect a hike this week but she may give important hints on the probability of a June rate hike.  Interestingly, Mercury turns retrograde on Thursday so that is another reason to think there could be a shift in investor expectations this week.  Since Mercury aligns with Mars for much of the week, there may be an elevated level of tension.  It seems unlikely that stocks can continue to rise in this tense environment and indeed some downside looks like a more likely outcome here.

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 includes discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Doha talks fail as Mars turns retrograde; oil falls below $40

(18 April 2016)  Crude oil tumbled below $40 a barrel Monday as OPEC failed to come to an agreement to cut production. The much-anticipated Doha talks were intended to reduce output and thereby boost sagging oil prices.  Interestingly, the collapse of the talks came the same day as Mars turned retrograde.  Mars retrograde stations only occur about once every two years and are often symbolic of times of heightened tension and discord.  Mars is often an aggressive and irascible energy but the periods around its stations (i.e. direction reversal) may be times when it is more potent in that regard.  It may be on reason why it was impossible to get the different parties to compromise and agree to a deal.

Oil is in a nasty bear market these days with no end in sight.  As the world economy struggles, demand is down.  Political pressure for alternative fuels may also be reducing demand and that pressure is only going to increase in the future.  As I noted in a December forecast of oil prices, the current dasha period is very difficult these days.  Using the horoscope of the Brent Crude chart, I suggested that the bear market since 2014 is partially due to an inauspicious Mercury-Saturn dasha period. 

Interestingly, the failure of the Doha talks on Sunday occurred on the very same day as the beginning of the new Ketu dasha period -- April 17, 2016 according to the Krishnamurthi ayanamsha.   Ketu is often a negative influence, especially on matter relating to wealth and value.  Ketu is likely to be even more problematic for oil prices since it is conjunct Mars in the natal chart. In that previous December post, I had suggested that the Ketu dasha would likely see oil prices remain under pressure and likely fall further.  We're only one day (!) into the 7-year long Ketu major dasha period, but so far Ketu is fulfilling its reputation for maleficence.

On the final day of the Doha meeting, we can see that Mars (14 Scorpio) turned retrograde while in opposition to natal Saturn (20 Taurus).  Transiting Saturn (21 Scorpio) is also opposite natal Saturn and square to the Sun (19 Leo) so that may be a source of additional pressure on prices.  One of the basic tenets of financial astrology is that Mars and Saturn tend to depress prices when they are involved in transit alignments.  As always, it is best not to rely on only one astrological indicator like dashas.  Transits, progressions, and return charts are useful sources of confirming evidence.  That is very much the case here where the Brent chart is both 1) in a negative dasha period and 2) under difficult transits. 

I would expect oil prices to remain low and probably fall further during this initial Ketu-Ketu dasha period which lasts until September 2016.  The following Ketu-Venus period will extend from Sept 2016 to Nov 2017 and could see a significant rebound begin in oil prices.  Venus is a benefic planetary influence in any event, and it is fairly well-placed in the Brent horoscope as it is in the 11th house.  It may be under pressure from the aspect of Saturn, however, there so that may mean we are unlikely to return to the old prices above $100. 

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks were higher last week on a positive corporate earnings outlook and a weaker US Dollar.  The Dow climbed almost 2% to 17,897 in New York, while Indian shares fared even better as the Sensex gained 3% to 25,626.  I had been fairly neutral about the week as a whole, although I noted some bullish influences midweek on the Mercury-Jupiter aspect.  Stocks did rise at that time but the upside was greater than I would have expected.  As it turned out, the potentially bearish alignments I noted for Monday and Friday didn't yield much downside. 

Global stocks were mostly negative Monday, presumably on the Venus-Saturn alignment and the initial aftermath of the Mars retrograde station.  US stocks reversed early and finished higher, however. The late week Venus-Uranus conjunction should coincide with some upside this week.  The fact that this conjunction also aligns with Rahu, Uranus and Mercury suggests we could actually see those gains occur at almost any time in the week.  It is hard to be too negative this week, although retrograde Mars could generate some surprises.  I tend to think that we won't see the negative Mars influence manifest until next week when it aligns with Mercury, which is also due to station retrograde on Thursday -- the day after the latest Fed meeting!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mars upsets Trump as Cruz gains ground

(11 April 2016) After looking like an unstoppable political force for months, the candidacy of GOP front-runner Donald Trump is looking more vulnerable these days   Not only was Trump soundly defeated by Ted Cruz in the recent Wisconsin primary, but the Cruz camp has been doing a much better job of collecting delegate support than Trump.   Primary results notwithstanding, delegate selection is critical in the event of a contested convention.  Most delegates only have to vote for the state winner on the first convention ballot, so on any subsequent ballots they are free to vote for whoever they want.  

Trump still enjoys a big lead in delegates over Ted Cruz but more commentators are now suggesting that it will be more difficult for him to reach the magic number of 1237 needed for a first ballot win at the convention in Cleveland on July 21st.   Some scenarios even have him attaining the 1237 mark by the convention, but still losing the nomination because some delegates may change their mind.  Needless to say, it promises to be a very eventful and chaotic convention.

Trump is now facing an uphill battle as the leadership of the Republican Party is now openly seeking ways to defeat him.  It has even come to the point where all the GOP candidates Trump, Cruz, and Kasich are questioning whether they will endorse the party's nominee after the convention.  This raises the likelihood of a fractured GOP and the possibility of an independent third party run by whoever loses the convention. 

The refusal of the candidates to come together around a single candidate has meant that the odds of an open convention are now greater than 50% on political betting markets.  The GOP itself seems on the verge of self-destruction as pro-Trump and anti-Trump camps appear to be moving beyond the point of compromise. This loss of momentum has been reflected in the political betting markets such as Predictit, Predictwise and Pivit.   The site showed the probability of a Trump nomination topping out just days before March 1st Super Tuesday at 84%.  As this chart tracking a Trump nomination shows, it has been falling ever since and has taken its greatest hit in the past two weeks.   Trump is still favoured to beat Cruz but now the margin is only 10%.

I am not surprised by Trump's recent difficulties.  In February, I had predicted that Trump would begin to experience some setbacks in March and that his momentum would likely stall.  I wrote that he would likely experience a significant setback "sometime between mid-March and mid-April".  This has more or less come to pass.  I thought that this setback could manifest as both electoral defeats and formal obstacles to the nomination.   The losses in March and early April have made the path to 1237 very difficult mathematically and now both remaining candidates are unlikely to support him if he actually wins. 

These troubles coincide with the close aspect of transiting Mars (14 Scorpio) to Trump's 11th house Mercury (15 Gemini).  With Mars slowing down ahead of its retrograde station on the 17th, Mars has been in close range of his Mercury for two weeks or more.  The 8th house aspect (=210 degrees) can be especially nasty in Vedic astrology and since Mars is due to station next week on that same degree, Trump will likely continue to feel under pressure from all sides.  Once Mars turns retrograde, however, things could get better for Trump as it begins to move away from his Mercury.  This should coincide with improved electoral outcomes for Trump as he is widely expected to carry the Eastern states like New York and Pennsylvania which vote on the 19th and 26th, respectively.

The horoscope of the Ted Cruz campaign suggests he is more likely to win the convention.  The convention will likely (!) be decided on July 21.  The Cruz campaign chart looks very good around that time.  Uranus (0 Aries) will be just days away from stationing retrograde exactly on the "MC" (=10th house cusp) and Mars of this chart.  Uranus aspects to the 10th house cusp are classic indicator for sudden or shocking events pertaining to career and status.  The fact that Mars is also there considerably ratchets up the power of this conjunction.  Jupiter (26 Leo) will aspecting the Moon (25 Aries) within one degree and both Sun and Venus will be a few degrees from the natal Jupiter.  

By contrast, the Trump campaign chart will have Mars casting its onerous 8th house aspect to the triple conjunction of Moon, Sun, and Mars.   That looks like way too much Mars energy and frustration to me, even if it is a little past exact.  Actually, Mars stations at 29 Libra on June 29th so that could create a lot of chaos and bad feelings for Trump in the weeks leading up to the convention.  For all the energy, initiative and assertiveness of Mars which can sometimes be harnessed productively, this 8th house aspect just looks like Trump loses on the convention floor in a very intense and emotional fight. 

I don't have a strong opinion of whether Trump will launch an independent campaign after he loses.  One would think he will given his continuing level of popularity and his alienation from the GOP.   But Ted Cruz looks much more likely to be the GOP nominee coming out of the convention in Cleveland.

Weekly Market Forecast

Stocks generally retreated last week as confusion over the direction of US interest rates prompted some investors to take money off the table.  US stocks lost more than 1% as the Dow closed at 17,576.  Indian shares fell by 2% to 24,673 as the market was disappointed by the modest 25 basis point rate cut by the RBI.   This modestly negative outcome was not too surprising as I had taken a fairly neutral stance in last week's market forecast.  As expected, Tuesday's Sun-Saturn alignment correlated with some declines.  The rest of the week was more mixed.

Yhis week Monday has been mostly positive although US markets reversed lower by the close.  This week looks rather mixed again.  Tuesday's Mars-Venus alignment hints at some negativity but the Mercury-Jupiter aspect will strengthen on Wednesday and Thursday and could produce at least some upside.  While Friday's Mercury-Saturn alignment seems somewhat bearish, it may not be enough to produce a down week overall.   Mars turns retrograde on Sunday the 17th so that is a wild card factor of sorts.   Like Saturn turning retrograde in late March, this Mars retrograde station could correlate with some markets reversing their dominant trend. 

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 includes discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Yellen takes rate hike off the table: Is the Fed trapped?

(4 April 2016)  Fed Chair Janet Yellen is definitely living up to her reputation as a Keynesian inflation "dove".  After keeping interest rates unchanged at the last Fed meeting in -mid-March, Ms. Yellen last week essentially precluded any early rate hikes as she cited continued global uncertainty, especially in China.  Despite an improving US economy and a domestic inflation rate that is now pushing up against that important 2% threshold, Yellen and the Fed are increasingly reluctant to raise rates lest it cause more global fallout.   The Fed's long-awaited hike in December sparked a big global sell-off in stocks and that may have forced Yellen to re-think her plan to normalize rates.  It seems she is willing to accept a higher rate of US inflation in order to keep the status quo intact.

Despite Yellen's confident reassurances, more commentators now see the Fed as being trapped in its low interest rate policy.  The Fed may want to raise rates to combat rising inflation but it is increasingly beholden to stock markets both in the US and around the world.  Since the Fed emphasizes the link between a buoyant stock market and economic growth, it is reluctant to do anything that would cause stocks to fall.  As a result, the Fed may never be able to normalize rates in the current environment since any attempt to do so could cause a massive global stock market sell-off. 

So is there a downside for the Fed to keep rates near zero indefinitely?  If the current low-growth environment continues, then things could go on as is for a while without too much damage.  But if there is another deflationary crisis originating out of China or Europe, then the Fed would have to go to negative interest rates.  Such a move may well be theoretically stimulative for the economy, but it would likely frighten markets.  Conversely, if US inflation continues to rise and exceeds 2%, then the bond market would likely be the first to blink as yields would begin to rise.  Rising yields is the last thing the Fed wants since it is trying to encourage banks to lend more, so the Fed would be forced finally to raise rates. 

The horoscope of the Federal Reserve (Dec 23 1913, 6.02 p.m.) reflects this growing stress.  We see that transiting Saturn (obstacles, disappointment) is in a close conjunction with Mercury (communication, rationality) over the past several weeks.  For an additional sense of frustration, Saturn is now also opposite its natal position.  Saturn is forcing the Fed into making very difficult and onerous decisions.  Markets are also more aware of the Fed's conundrum now as Yellen allows inflation to rise to a potentially troublesome level.  Analysts now realize that central banks have limits (Saturn) and can only do so much to fix the economy.  Questions are also being raised about how the Fed is now acting beyond its mandate, which was supposedly focused only on keeping inflation low and promoting full employment.   With Saturn now retrograde, it is moving very slowly so I would expect the Fed's credibility problems to continue and even intensify in the coming weeks.  These problems may be the result of new financial challenges for global markets and the growing perception that it is trapped and 'out of bullets'. 

But the Fed's horoscope has other afflictions also.  Transiting Rahu has been conjunct natal Ketu since February and this is another reason for its state of uncertainty.  These nodal (i.e. Rahu and Ketu) contacts are classic indicators of instability and change.  No doubt Yellen had to give up her hope for more rate increases for 2016 given the sell-off after December and all the slowdown and devaluation talk surrounding China.   The Lunar Nodes move slowly so this affliction isn't over yet.  It should continue through April and into May. It may mean that the Fed will struggle to stay ahead of quickly changing circumstances in the world economy.  It may also mean that there will be more questions about its ability to deal with economic problems. 

Of course, afflictions to the Fed horoscope are only an indirect influence on financial markets.  It is possible that stocks could remain relatively strong through this April and May period during the Rahu-Ketu conjunction and the Saturn conjunction to Mercury.  However, I would think that any trouble at the Fed is probably not good news for stock markets, all other things being equal. 

The longer term influences don't look much better as the Uranus-Pluto square remains within range of the Ascendant-Mars conjunction in the Fed horoscope.  This speaks to severe disruptions and shocks to the system over the next year at least.  Uranus stations at 0 Aries in July and then comes back to square the natal Mars in December of 2016.  This is a troublesome influence that suggests sudden changes that upset the status quo.  Pluto moves more slowly so it will not exactly oppose the Ascendant-Mars pairing until 2018.  It also looks like bad news for the Federal Reserve and hints at power plays and coercion in which the Fed gets the short end of the stick.  This could symbolize a few different things such as a damning audit of the Fed from Congress, or perhaps a nasty currency war with China that forces Yellen's hand to raise rates. And if China sold its considerable holdings of US Treasuries, it would force US rates much higher. 

Weekly Market Forecast

US stocks were generally higher last week following those dovish comments by Janet Yellen as the Dow rose more than 1% to 17,792.  Indian stocks were mostly flat as investors prepared for the latest policy announcement by the RBI.  The Sensex was slightly lower on the week to 25,269. 

The resilience of most markets has been a little surprising following the recent Saturn retrograde station (March 25) and lunar eclipse (March 23).  I thought we might have seen more in the way of caution and uncertainty in light of these potentially destabilizing influences.  To be sure, most European and Asian markets have been weaker since these late March celestial phenomena but the US market has so far remained unaffected.

Stocks were mixed on Monday with a modest decline in New York.  Tuesday's Sun-Saturn alignment may also depress sentiment although perhaps not by much.  The most interesting alignment this week involves Mercury and Venus.  Both of these planets are considered positive so their 30 degree alignment is nominally bullish.  This alignment is closest Tuesday and Wednesday.  However, some of this positivity may be lost since both Mercury and Venus are associated with Saturn through a lesser 15 degree angle (N.B. 15 degrees is also a divisor of 360 degrees).  Saturn is often bearish and its presence in this alignment may limit gains.   The late week Sun-Uranus conjunction looks more bullish.  Overall, it's a very mixed picture and I do not have a strong opinion about where stocks will finish this week.  But as Mars edges closer to its retrograde station on 17th April, I would think optimism may be in shorter supply.  Mars will station at 14 Scorpio, just 7 degrees away from Saturn at 21 Scorpio.  Both malefic planets will then move backward in tandem through Scorpio.  It's hard to see stocks rallying against this heavy Scorpionic influence.

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 includes discussion of US and Indian stock markets, as well as gold, oil and major currencies.