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. 

But we could also think of it as changes in ideology and the way we rationalize behaviour.  For example, the Rahu-Mercury aspect could signify the rise of new ways of thinking about the economy.  This is already underway with the criticism of globalization.  This could well move further towards a full-fledged theory of protectionism and economic nationalism.  It could also indicate new ideologies based on race and religious differences as we have seen in the alt-right movement. 

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.