Sunday, April 8, 2018

Mr Zuckerberg goes to Washington; US stocks fall again

(8 April 2018) Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg could be in for a rough ride this week when he appears before a congressional committee in Washington, DC.  The Facebook founder and CEO is due to answer questions from bipartisan panels on data privacy and internet security on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The appearance follows the Cambridge Analytica data abuse scandal and the concern over Facebook's potentially negligent role in Russia's interference in the 2016 US election.  The wunderkind of social media now may have to admit that the selling of personal user data is an intrinsic part of the Facebook business model.

Certainly, the planetary alignments this week look tense for Zuckerberg.  The main source of stress is the approaching Saturn retrograde station at 15 Sagittarius.  The station takes place on April 17th but it has already slowed considerably and is more or less just sitting on that degree of 15 Sagittarius (in the sidereal zodiac, of course!).  The problem for Zuckerberg is that Saturn forms a 135-degree sesquisquare aspect with his Sun at 0 Taurus. This aspect has been within range for weeks and will continue to be within effective range for perhaps another month.  While this is not a standard Vedic aspect, it is equivalent to a conjunction in the Ashtamsa D-8 divisional chart.  The D-8 chart is generally associated with negative experiences involving loss or conflict. 

Saturn transits to the Sun often describe situations where authority figures may block wishes or goals and thereby cause frustration.  Traditionally, the Saturn-Sun authority figures are symbolized by the father, bosses, and government.  Certainly, this hearing has the potential to see Zuckerberg taken to task by the US lawmakers.  On one hand, it is possible that most of the negative energy of the Saturn-Sun transit will be manifested just by Zuckerberg having to face criticism without necessarily doing more damage to him or to Facebook's reputation.  In true Saturnian fashion, the government has forced him to come to Washington irrespective of his own wishes.   And yet, the fact that Saturn is basically stationary in the sky less than two weeks before its retrograde station likely means that the damage to his reputation and to Facebook may be quite serious.

Other transits on Tuesday and Wednesday suggest that Zuckerberg will not do well in the hearings.  Transiting Mars (19 Sagittarius) is exactly conjunct Jupiter (19 Sagittarius) indicating conflict and criticism (Mars) of his knowledge and philosophy (Jupiter).  Zuckerberg's optimistic and naive view of social media will likely come under intense scrutiny and is likely to be challenged by the committee.  Also, transiting Venus (18 Aries) will be exactly opposite Saturn (18 Libra).  This suggests the hearings will be an unpleasant experience and will be disappointing in terms of their outcome. 

In a previous post, I suggested that Facebook's problems are unlikely to end soon.  I think Zuckerberg will remain under a lot of pressure for the rest of 2018.  And I think it is still possible he could be asked to step down as CEO at some point.  I will revisit this question in the coming weeks.

Weekly Market Forecast

Facebook's travails are only one reason why the stock market has been falling recently.  President Trump's tariff threats against China were the main reason why US stocks tumbled again last week.  After appearing to recover midweek, Friday saw another rout as the Dow fell more than 2% closing below 24,000 once again.  Indian stocks fared better, however, as domestic earnings and a dovish RBI stance are supporting investor sentiment. 

This negative outcome for US stocks was in keeping with expectations as I thought last week's Mars-Saturn conjunction would likely take stocks lower.  In fact, Monday's big decline occurred on the same day as the exact conjunction.  Now that the conjunction is separating, can the stock market resume is bullish ways?

I think a rally is very close now although I suspect we could see more downside this week.  Monday's Mars-Rahu alignment looks bearish and could well coincide with lower lows.  The midweek Sun-Jupiter-Pluto alignment looks quite bullish and argues for some positive days at some point this week.  So we may well see a rerun of last week with large swings in both directions. 

The Venus-Jupiter alignment on April 17th should bring an improvement in sentiment.  Interestingly, this is the same day that Saturn turns retrograde.  While Saturn is a bearish planet, its station could be part of larger configuration of planets that brings about a shift in the market's prevailing mood.  Let's see how it plays out.

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, March 27, 2018

NASDAQ leads stocks lower on Facebook fallout

(27 March 2018) Stocks fell hard again today as technology companies were sold on renewed privacy concerns following the Facebook data debacle.   The Nasdaq led the broader markets lower falling 3% to 7008 while the Dow slipped back under 24,000.  The decline comes a day after a sharp rally following the announcement of US-China trade talks.  But it seems that last year's unstoppable Trump rally has been replaced with a new and more volatile market in 2018 that is more sensitive to bad news. 

It seems likely that stocks will revisit their early February lows fairly soon.  Last Friday's decline more or less matched the low on the Dow, while other indexes remained slightly above their Feb 9th bottom.  But can the stock market resume its upward climb once this correction is over?  It's difficult to say definitively using astrology alone since estimating the magnitude of price moves is quite speculative.  Astrology is better suited for highlighting time periods of positive, negative or mixed influences.  In that sense, time is the primary variable in financial astrology

So when will stocks rebound?  A look at the horoscope of the tech-heavy Nasdaq stock exchange provides some useful clues.  As I have written in previous market forecasts, the February swoon occurred just as Mars and Saturn had aligned with the Ascendant in this chart.  To be sure, there were many other confirming alignments at other levels in the chart as well as in other financial charts.  But the Mars-Saturn pairing is very bearish when aligned with key points in the chart such as the Sun, Moon or Ascendant. 

Now Saturn (14 Sagittarius) has moved away a few degrees but it remains a potentially negative influence when activated by another planet.  This was the case today as Mars (11 Sagittarius) approached its conjunction while in a close square aspect with the Sun (13 Pisces).   This three-planet alignment is very bearish and will be within range for all of this week.  It is worth remembering that the alignment isn't closely aspecting any sensitive point in the chart at this time.  These transiting alignments can have effects even when they are not aspecting significant natal chart points.  The alignments are often weaker in that instance and that is one reason why stocks rallied yesterday.   There was also a bullish pattern in place both in the current sky and with respect to the natal Nasdaq chart as Venus entered sidereal Aries and approached its conjunction with Uranus.  It also entered the 1st house in the Nasdaq chart and aligned with the South Lunar Node Ketu (0 Leo) in the Nasdaq chart which is usually bullish. 

The other ongoing source of tension in the chart is that the North Lunar Node (Rahu) is closely aspecting Mars (17 Scorpio).  Rahu-Mars alignments tend to be negative since both planets are natural malefics.  Using the Mean Node, Rahu is at 18 Cancer while the True Node is 19 Cancer.  Either way, it's close enough to be effective and is another key reason for this period of renewed pessimism in stocks here in late March.


Could stocks soon rally off these levels?  Well, it's certainly possible but the planetary alignments do not look especially bullish in the near term.  The rest of this week may see more up and down trading as bullish Venus conjoins Uranus (exact Wednesday) but the Sun will remain in square aspect with Mars and Saturn.  Moreover, retrograde Mercury (21 Pisces) is now approaching its own difficult alignment with Rahu (18 Cancer).  This will be exact over the weekend but I suspect it is in play already.  It is important to note that the Mercury-Rahu aspect reinforces the negative influence of Mars through the Rahu-Mars aspect.  This is likely to keep stocks under pressure this week and most likely into next week. 

Rahu will remain in aspect with natal Mars next week while Mercury forms a square alignment with Mars and Saturn.  This is a very tense configuration that seems unlikely to bring about much upside.  In fact, it looks like a bearish pattern that will coincide with further declines.  Mars and Saturn are due to exactly conjoin on Monday, April 2 although their bearish influence need not be strongest on the precise day of their alignment.

The bottom line here is that investors may have to be patient for the next big rally to take place.  It seems more likely that the Feb 9th lows will not only be matched (i.e. "tested") but that stocks could well fall further in the first half of April.   I go into greater detail about possible scenarios for the stock market in the coming months in my investor newsletter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Facebook data scandal hits stocks

(20 March 2018) Yesterday was not a good day for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.  As news spread of the Cambridge Analytica data abuse scandal, Facebook shares lost 7% and took the rest of the US market down with it.  Facebook was down another 3% today amid growing calls for a formal investigation of Facebook's data sharing practices.  Neither Zuckerberg nor any other top official have yet to address the matter as the company finds itself in hot water again.  Recently, Facebook has come under fire for its role in Russia's interference in the 2016 US election. 

Just how significant is this controversy for Facebook?  Could this be a sign that the social media behemoth has peaked and is now facing the prospect of a slow decline?  Certainly, the key horoscopes for Facebook do reflect its current troubles.  The incorporation chart from 2004 is under heavy affliction by -- you guessed it -- the approaching Mars-Saturn conjunction in sidereal Sagittarius.  While we don't know the exact time of incorporation, the noon chart puts the Moon at 13 Sagittarius.  The potential natal range of the Moon would therefore be between 12 and 15 Sagittarius which is very close to the current position of Saturn (14 Sagittarius). 

Saturn's status as a malefic may well be amplified by the approach of Mars, the other first-class malefic, but that is not the whole story.  Saturn transits do not always bring bad news, especially with the conjunction.   The bigger problem is that the natal Moon in the Facebook horoscope receives a very close aspect from Rahu (North Lunar Node).  This creates an intrinsic instability in the Moon which make it vulnerable when it comes under difficult transits. 

That is a fundamental rule of Vedic astrology: well-placed planets can handle stressful transits from malefics better than weak or unstable planets that are afflicted in the natal chart.  And the Saturn transit to the Moon also brings the natal Sun (13 Cancer) into the picture.  Both Moon and Sun, the two most important planets in the chart, are involved in a strongly negative Saturn transit. 

Facebook forecast

Looking down the road, Facebook may continue to be on the defensive for some time to come as Saturn is due to station retrograde on April 17th.  It will then move back over its conjunction with the Moon in May and June.  This extended conjunction of the Saturn with the natal Moon therefore will likely represent a time when the company is on the defensive.  As an added layer of affliction, transiting Rahu will conjoin the natal Sun in June.  This suggests more problems with status and reputation.  It may well reflect problems involving Mark Zuckerberg himself since he is symbolized by the Sun (=leaders) in this chart.   It is even possible that Zuckerberg could be forced out of his CEO position.  And with Saturn due to make its final conjunction with the Moon in December, 2018 as a whole looks challenging for Facebook. 

We can also see Facebook's recent problems in the horoscope of the IPO when it was first publicly traded.  Unlike the incorporation chart, the IPO chart is exactly timed so it may be more reliable, at least in terms of reflecting price movements.  Much of the recent criticism of Facebook is likely seen through the transit of Rahu to the Ascendant (22 Cancer).  Rahu is another natural malefic planet although it sometimes behaves in more positive ways.  Its conjunction to the Ascendant is problematic, however, if only because it often coincides with times of uncertainty and change.  The groundswell of criticism of Facebook over the election began in late 2017 when Rahu was exactly conjunct the Ascendant.  Rahu is since moved off a bit but it still within range.

Saturn is active in this chart too, as it is now forms a symmetrical "Grand Trine" alignment with Mars (15 Leo) and the Midheaven/10th house cusp (13 Aries).  The station at 15 Sagittarius will still be very close to these points.  Saturn is a malefic, Mars is a malefic, and the Midheaven is a neutral point that reflects the angular influences at any given time.  Some Western astrologers might consider 120 degree (trine) aspects as benign but I have found this is often not the case when malefics are involved.

The other key factor here is Neptune (20 Aquarius).  Neptune sits very close to the 8th house cusp by most  house systems and therefore conveys a sense of intrigue and deception.  Like the other outer planets Uranus and Pluto, Neptune goes with the flow.  If it is associated with benefics like Jupiter, it amplifies positive outcomes.  But if it is associated with malefics like Rahu or Saturn, then outcome will be worsened.   In this case, not only is Neptune aligned with Rahu at 20 degrees of their respective signs, but Neptune is positioned on the 8th house cusp.  In Vedic astrology, the 8th house is a negative dussthana house that symbolizes scandals, setbacks and obstacles.  It is a very bad placement for Neptune (along with the 6th and 12th house cusps) that is clearly a big factor why Facebook is coming under closer scrutiny.  The Neptune factor here could well mean that Facebook was fully aware of the abuses of the privacy of its users but did nothing to stop it.  Deception and confusion figure prominently when Neptune is badly placed.

Neptune moves very slowly and will station retrograde in June at 22 Aquarius -- exactly on the equal 8th house cusp and aligning with the Ascendant at 22 Cancer.  This is another reason why Facebook could come under renewed pressure in June.  When Mars conjoins Ketu in mid-June, it will align with natal Mars (by 8th house aspect) and square the Midheaven/IC.  With Saturn still within close range, it suggests Facebook will face another wave of conflict and public opposition.  Needless to say, it looks like a time when the stock is likely to fall further. 

Stock Market Forecast

Stocks have trended lower over the past week or so as investors have grown increasingly nervous about unpredictability of the Trump White House and the prospects for a damaging trade war.   While it remains well above its early February low, the Dow has again fallen below 25,000.   Indian stocks have also been weaker as the Sensex is now below 33,000.  In late January it had briefly traded above 36,000. 

This new weakness has been broadly in line with my expectations as I thought sentiment would turn increasingly fragile as we moved further into the month of March.  The reason for this new rise in caution is that Saturn is due to form some difficult alignments in March and April ahead of its retrograde station on April 17.  Saturn aligns with the Sun next week on Thursday the 29th, although the Sun will first align with Mars on Saturday the 24th.  Planets do not often manifest their effects exactly but the alignments would appear to favor volatility and declines.

Of course, the new Fed Chair Jay Powell is due to give his first press conference following the latest FOMC meeting on Wednesday.  He is widely expected to hike rates.  However, the planets look somewhat negative following the meeting.  Mercury turns retrograde on Thursday while aspected by Rahu (North Lunar Node) and Mars will aspect the Sun within just one degree.  Whether or not this is the result of the Fed statement or some other factor is unclear.  But it does underline the heightened risk in the days ahead.

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, March 6, 2018

Trump's tariff talk puts markets on edge

(6 March 2018) The stock market suffered another body blow late last week after President Trump suddenly announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.   The tariffs came a surprise to US trading partners who quickly threatened retaliation on US imports to their countries.  The prospect of a looming trade war has put investors on edge in recent days as economic growth would likely decline and inflation would rise as a result of these protectionist moves.   The tariffs appear to be a fait accompli now that Trump's leading economic advisor Gary Cohn resigned from the White House today.  Cohn had been a staunch free trade advocate and steadying influence on the unpredictable Trump.

It seems that the recent correction in the market may not be over yet.  After early February's decline, buyers had re-entered the market on hopes that interest rates were stabilizing and that inflation was less of a pressing problem.  However, the news of the Cohn departure have caused a sharp reversal in stock futures.  Could this be a signal of another move lower in the stock market in the short term? 

My overall view is that markets are likely to remain more volatile than usual for several more weeks at least.   I have previously noted some potent alignments in several financial horoscopes for February, March and April.  Saturn is at the center of these alignments as it assumes greater strength in advance of its retrograde station on April 17.  Saturn is a bearish planet and is more often associated with market declines when it forms significant alignments with other planets.

Another window on this question can be found through the chart of Donald Trump.  The approaching Saturn station at 15 Sagittarius is likely to hit President Trump very hard indeed as it will oppose his natal Mercury (15 Gemini) almost exactly.   This is almost certainly going to coincide with a highly stressful and frustrating time for him.  He is also likely to suffer major setbacks, perhaps on multiple fronts.   Of course, this may relate to North Korea or perhaps the ongoing Mueller investigation of the Russian involvement in the Trump campaign.  The investigation has been drawing closer to Trump and his inner circle as more staffers have been indicted.   Son-in-law Jared Kushner may well be the next big domino to fall. 

But I suspect the Saturn opposition to Trump's Mercury in April could also relate to the state of financial markets.  In Trump's horoscope, Mercury is more closely associated with money matters because it rules both of the money houses -- the 2nd and 11th -- and it is placed in the 11th house representing gains and income.   For a regular person, a Saturn station in opposition to the lord of the 11th house would likely mean a loss of income or assets and more generally a disappointment that comes from a denial of wishes.   For the individual, a job loss is one possible manifestation of this alignment (ahem!) although I wouldn't think that is likely in Trump's case.   In any event, the recent market turbulence is likely related to the approaching Saturn-Mercury opposition since Saturn has been just a few degrees short of an exact 180 degree aspect.

Since Trump is the President of the United States his chart is now indirectly the chart of the nation as a whole.  His karma is now America's karma, so to speak.  When his chart is afflicted by Saturn, that likely means that the country will have to deal with the fallout.  And since Mercury has strong financial symbolism for Trump, there is a greater chance that whatever happens to Trump personally in the coming weeks, it is likely to have national financial implications. 

We can see that the pressures may be increasing on Trump now that Mars enter sidereal Sagittarius tomorrow March 7.   Last week, Mars was conjunct his Moon/Ketu.  It was a time when he was apparently very angry with how everything were going against him and thus decided to launch this ill-considered tariff policy.  Mars is now closely aspecting (by 8th house aspect/quincunx) Saturn and Venus in the 12th house so his rage will likely turn to frustration and conflict for the rest of the week. 

For the rest of March, Mars will move further into Sagittarius and is due to conjoin Saturn on April 2 at 14/15 Sagittarius.  This is a time well worth watching as it could represent a very intense and eventful moment for the US.   It seems more likely that we will see stocks decline further in the weeks ahead, probably to lower lows.  That said, there remain some unanswered questions on timing about when larger declines are more likely.   Without pretending to know exact dates, I do discuss some specific timing possibilities in my newsletter.  Of course, I will try to update this space also as time allows.

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.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Stocks rebound as inflation worries subside

(15 February 2018) Stock markets are stabilizing this week after last week's turbulence.  Starting with last Friday's powerful rebound off the low of 23,500, we have see five straight days of gains as the Dow has climbed back above 25,000.  And yet markets will have some ways to go yet before they can recapture their highs of January 26th at 26,616.  This could be more difficult now that inflation has re-emerged as a threat to the goldilocks' economy of moderate growth, low interest rates and low inflation. 

Yesterday's CPI number was higher than expected at 2.1% and that pushed yields on the 10-year Treasury to 2.91%.  Higher bond yields are seen as problematic for stocks as they will raise borrowing costs and choke off further growth.  3% may be a key threshold in this respect.  More analysts are now questioning if this could be the end of the nine-year bull market that began after the financial crisis of 2008.

In my view, I think the bull market isn't done yet.  While we will likely see higher volatility from now on, I am expecting markets to eventually recover from this correction.  Taking the main planetary factors into consideration, I would expect there is a good chance to see higher highs later this year, most likely during the summer, and then possibly again in 2019.  Without going into an exhaustive analysis, let's just take a look at the horoscope of the New York Stock Exchange.

Just looking at the transits, we can see that the recent correction fits nicely with the 10.10 a.m. chart.  Rahu (North Lunar Node) is exactly conjunct the Ascendant (20 Cancer) while transiting Saturn (11 Sagittarius) exactly squares the natal Rahu.  By themselves, neither of these factors would likely have brought about much downside.  While both are considered malefic planets, other factors can often alter how they influence collective sentiment.  But together, they provided a key element in turning market sentiment negative.   In fact, we can also infer that their unique interrelationship in this alignment was crucial. Saturn's negative aspect to natal Rahu may have been transferred and amplified by the fact that by transit, Rahu was conjunct the most sensitive point in the whole chart, the Ascendant.  This created a kind of malefic feedback loop between the malefics Saturn and Rahu.  As if they were handing off a bearish baton in a race, Saturn to Rahu, and then Rahu to the Ascendant, and hence the chart as a whole.

The rebound we have seen since February 9th has not only reflected the fact that Saturn has now moved past its square with Rahu, but that positive transits are now occurring involving the natal Jupiter (2 Libra), and by extension, the very strong Jupiter-Mercury-Pluto alignment which resonances very strongly at 2 degrees of those planet's respective signs.  We had a solar eclipse this afternoon at 3 degrees of sidereal Aquarius which highlighted this Jupiter alignment very nicely.  Given the significant interruption effects of eclipses, however, there is a real chance we could see stocks fall back somewhat in the days ahead. 

I would expect some pullback tomorrow (Friday, the 16th) as well as into next week as the positive transits are moving away from the Jupiter alignment and malefic Mars comes under the aspect of Rahu.  Actually, Mars will also cast its square aspect on Neptune (Feb 17th), Venus (Feb 24th) and then Mercury (Feb 28th).  These various Mars influences are negative and could offset the ongoing positive influence of the approaching Jupiter retrograde station on March 8th which aligns closely with the natal Moon in the NYSE chart.

It is difficult to predict how far stocks may fall in the rest of February.  Perhaps not as far as in the first part of the month.  While I think there could be more upside again in March, the outlook for April looks much more troublesome given the Mars-Saturn conjunction and the Saturn retrograde station.   In other words, bullish investors may have to be patient for a while before the market resumes its upward climb. 

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.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Stocks wobble as bond yields rise; bitcoin crashes below 10K

(1 February 2018) US stocks are looking a bit shaky this week after a rare two-day decline on Monday and Tuesday.   Investors became skittish as bond yields rose to their highest since 2014.   As the economy continues to improve under Trump, inflation expectations are rising.  This, in turn, is making yields more competitive with stocks as the yield on the 2-year Treasury is now higher than the dividend yield on the S&P 500 for the first time since 2009.  If yields continue to rise, stocks will become more vulnerable to a correction.  Some analysts are suggesting that 3% on the 10-year Treasury could be the make-or-break level to watch.  Currently, it is 2.79%. 

This week's market jitters may be seen through several charts but perhaps most clearly through the NASDAQ horoscope (Feb 8 1971).   While there are several placements that are contributing to this uncertainty, it is likely the transit of Mars through Scorpio that is the triggering factor.  Earlier in the week Mars was exactly conjunct the 8th house cusp at 8 Scorpio.  This is the same as a 150-degree inconjunct alignment with the Ascendant in the NASDAQ chart.  Mars is often a bearish planet and it is more likely to coincide with down days while associated with the 8th house.   In traditional astrology, the 8th (along with the 6th and 12th) are seen as more negative.  The negative outcome to the Mars transit was likely increased due to the proximity of Jupiter and Neptune to the Mars transit. 

But Mars doesn't always produce down days when it aligns with the cusp of the 8th house (N.B.  it does so about once every two years).  Other factors may also had a hand in creating the conditions for this pullback.  Saturn (10 Sagittarius) is close to Venus (9 Sagittarius) and may have been resonating with Mars as it neared the the 10th degree of Scorpio.  Mars and Saturn tend to be more bearish planets in their effects.  In addition, the South Lunar Node (Ketu) is in a wide conjunction with the Sun (25 Capricorn) while the North Lunar Node (Rahu) is now approaching its trine aspect with natal Mars (17 Scorpio). 


But where are stocks going from here?  Is this just a brief dip after which the rally will resume or is this the beginning of a shift in sentiment which could lead to a major correction?  I think the next week or two could see more difficulties since Mars will remain in Scorpio.  Even the next few days could be more volatile than normal as Mars conjoins Jupiter.  Today (Thursday) stocks have fallen again.   That said, next week looks less negative overall given the Venus-Uranus aspect on Tuesday the 6th and the Sun-Jupiter alignment on Friday the 9th.  I would also pay special attention to the time around the Mars-Rahu alignment in mid-February as this will provide a double activation of the natal Mars in the NASDAQ chart. 

The fact that Jupiter is due to station retrograde on March 8th would suggest that there may be a return to optimism as we get closer to that date.  This suggests that the rally may not be over just yet.  Whether there is enough optimism to push stocks to new all-time highs is harder to say, however.   The astrology does not offer clear evidence on that question.  While I do think markets are likely to suffer a larger correction (>10%) sometime in the next 3-4 months, I would not say it is likely to occur here in February.  We may only be getting a more modest trial run.

A bit on Bitcoin

All the news is bad these days for cryptocurrencies.  New reports of hacking, more government regulations, and more questions about whether it is simply a massive bubble.  Bitcoin has now lost 50% of its value from its high near $20,000 as BTC traded below $10,000 this week.  The correction itself isn't too surprising although the size of the decline is.   Previously, I suggested the Uranus direct station in early January could change the dynamic for a while and force prices lower. 

I think there is some chance for a rebound in the coming weeks, but it looks unlikely to recover its previous levels.  One potential key date may the Jupiter retrograde station on March 8th.  Jupiter symbolizes optimism and expansion and its change in direction can sometimes coincide with shifts in market mood.  On this occasion, we should note that the Jupiter station occurs at 29 Libra which is exactly square the Ascendant (29 Cancer) of the First Trade chart (12 Jan 2009, Temple City, CA).  This First Trade chart is far from being reliable data so we shouldn't place too much importance on the position of the Jupiter station. Nonetheless, it bears watching.  After March, the chart looks increasingly stressed.  This hints at lower lows for BTC in the second quarter of 2018. 

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, January 15, 2018

The financial outlook for 2018: more Saturn, less Jupiter

(15 January 2018) After a banner year in 2017 which saw US stocks gain more than 20%, the financial outlook for 2018 looks decidedly more difficult.  The stock market is a forward-looking discounting mechanism as investors have bid up stocks in anticipation of higher growth from the pro-business policies of the Trump administration.  Tax cuts and reduced regulation are key reasons why markets are expecting corporate earnings and GDP to enjoy more robust growth in 2018.  While the promised infrastructure program may well give an additional boost to the market, many analysts are suggesting that the outsized gains of 2017 cannot be repeated in 2018.  But just what can investors reasonably expect? 

The astrological indications tend to concur with a view of diminished expectations.  The Trump rally in stocks can be analyzed in various ways but I find the simplest way is to look at the key financial horoscopes.  If we look at the chart of most widely cited stock average in the world, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), we can see the reasons for why 2017 was such a bullish year and why 2018 may be more problematic.  (N.B.  I am using an estimated time of 5 p.m. based on the historical evidence; the precise time is less important for my analysis in any event.)

The dominant transits in 2017 were largely positive.  Bullish Jupiter made significant aspects several times throughout the year.  In early 2017, it stationed retrograde at 29 Virgo and thus aligned very closely with both Venus (1 Taurus) and Mercury (1 Gemini) within just two degrees for the first three months of the year.   The bullish Jupiter influence was reinforced by the transit of Uranus from 0 to 4 degrees of Aries from March through to the end of the year.  Uranus is also a bullish planet when it forms close alignments with benefic planets like Mercury and Venus as was the case in 2017.  In a sense, the timing was near-perfect as the Jupiter alignment made the first quarter of 2017 positive and then handed off the bullish baton to Uranus for the second quarter and indeed the rest of the year.

Jupiter again re-entered the picture by September, as it entered sidereal Libra which is the 1st house in the Dow chart.  This is a classic indication of rising confidence and optimism.  Not surprisingly, stocks extended their gains in the fourth quarter of 2017.  Jupiter exactly conjoined the Ascendant at 21 Libra in December. 

But market outcomes are determined not only by assessing the impact of favourable transits but also by taking into account unfavourable transits involving malefic planets.  As in traditional Western astrology, Vedic astrology holds that Saturn and the Lunar Nodes, Rahu and Ketu, are generally malefic influences.  This is not always the case as exceptions abound but they are more negative in their transit effects than other planets. 

Also, the outer planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto can exert a malefic influence if they form hard aspects (90,180 degrees) to important points in the chart.  They become more bullish when they form soft aspects.  This may well have been the case in 2017 as slow-moving Neptune formed a "soft" trine 120 degree aspect with the Ascendant for most of the year.

As it happened, we did have some negative Saturn aspects in 2017 but they were largely offset by the simultaneous presence of other planets.  Bearish Saturn (1 Sagittarius) opposed Mercury (1 Gemini) on three separate occasions during the year but some of the negative influence was likely mitigated by the presence of Uranus near the same degree (1 Aries).  If Uranus had not created a three-planet alignment, then the Saturn-Mercury opposition likely would have produced more downside.   I wonder if the presence of Uranus may also have blunted the often negative effect of the nodal semi-return when Tr Rahu conjoined Ketu in May and June.  Uranus was fairly close to a 120 degree alignment with the nodes at that time.  And of course, we should not forget that the ongoing Jupiter and Neptune influences also created a moderating effect on the negative Saturn or nodal transits. 

2018 Forecast

But 2018 looks less positive.  On the plus side, Jupiter will continue to transit the 1st house for the first 9 months of the year.  While this is a clear positive influence on market sentiment, it may not be as positive as it was last year because of the relative lack of close aspects with important points in the chart.  It will conjoin natal Uranus (29 Libra) in March so that may highlight a bullish time.  And its conjunction with the Ascendant and Saturn (21 Libra) from June to August also hints at a significant up trend during the summer. 

But the key difference this year is that the malefic aspects look like they will pack a bigger punch.  For its part, Saturn will align closely with the Moon-Sun opposition from March to June.  The Moon-Sun opposition at 13 degrees of Scorpio and Taurus is the central feature in the Dow chart so the extended influence of Saturn on these planets is more likely to bring pessimism and caution.  To be sure, Saturn is not casting its full-strength Vedic aspect to either planet but the alignment is so close -- just two degrees at the time of the Saturn retrograde station in April -- that we should see some effects from it.  At very least, it suggests the Trump rally will be interrupted for a while.  But it may well signal a significant decline.   I discuss in more detail this upcoming Saturn pattern in my weekly newsletter.

The other important alignment that stands out in 2018 is the Saturn-Uranus-Rahu configuration from August to October.  Two of the three planets are malefics so the alignment is more likely to coincide with a decline.  What is interesting here is that both Saturn and Uranus will station in a near-exact 120 degree alignment.  This is a soft aspect so perhaps it may not be that damaging.  But the stations reflect situations of greater intensity and could well signal some important developments in financial markets.  One saving grace is that the alignment does not appear to hit any key points in the Dow natal chart, either positive or negative.  So if there is a late summer sell-off, it could be fairly modest.

Whereas 2017 didn't see any pullbacks greater than 3%, it seems more likely that we will have at least two distinct down periods in 2018.  Both should be much larger declines and I would think at least one of them could turn out to be a full-blown correction of at least 10%.  With two significant pullbacks likely in 2018, it will be much harder for stocks to post another winning year.  It is still possible that rallies may be large enough to offset the corrections, although it could be tough going for stocks. 

Weekly Forecast

Most world stock markets hit new all-time highs last week on extended New Year's optimism.  The Dow hit 25,800 on Friday while India's Sensex is fast approaching 35,000 after Monday's gain.  These highs were in keeping with last week's market forecast as I thought the multi-planet Jupiter alignment would likely coincide with some upside.  However, I also thought we might have seen some profit taking later in the week as some of these aspects began to separate.  Alas, market bulls continued to rule the roost.

Nonetheless, this week looks less positive as Mars enters sidereal Scorpio.  This doesn't always translate into declines but it still argues for some added caution.  Friday's Moon-Mars square looks most volatile in that respect.  That said, some gains should also be forthcoming given the conjunction of the New Moon with Venus this week.  It is difficult to say where stocks will end up, however.

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.