Investors, beware the Ides of February.
Just as the soothsayer warned Julius Caesar of his impending doom, financial astrologers are warning Wall Street that the stock market’s near-relentless rise soon may be over.
“I’m looking for a sharp rally up into the middle of February, but I’m advising people to start getting out around the 13th and be completely out of the market by the 19th,” says Arch Crawford, editor of what may well be the nation’s best-known astrologically based market timing report, Crawford Perspectives.
The market will rally again in March, but after the lunar eclipse on March 24, watch out, he says.
“I expect a sharp drop,” Crawford says.
Market astrologer Henry Weingarten concurs but quibbles a bit on the timing. He expects the Dow Jones industrial average to land at 5,222--more than 1,500 points below today’s level after the solar eclipse, which hits in early March.
“Eclipses signify dramatic changes,” says Weingarten, author of “Investing by the Stars” and managing director of the private Astrologer’s Fund. “There is a lot of cosmic power.”
Meanwhile, Yvonne Morabito, author of “Dollar Signs: An Astrological Guide to Personal Finance,” expects extreme volatility in February--particularly with technology and communication stocks--but she’s less negative about March.
“I’m expecting less spectacular, but steady growth,” she says.
Prognosticating the stock market based on the positions of the planets is offbeat, to be sure. But it appears to be a new trend on Wall Street, largely because it can sometimes prove profitable. And, as market pundits nervously watch U.S. stocks climb to record levels, everybody is looking for a sign of when the party might be over.
“Every major Wall Street firm that you can name is receiving some astrology newsletter through someone--a broker, salesperson or executive,” Morabito says. “They may smirk at you on the trading floor, but every skeptic I’ve ever met was standing there 45 minutes later asking me to do their chart.”
Wall Street’s subculture of financial astrologers produces few verifiable track records. Weingarten, for instance, won’t disclose performance of his privately held Astrologer’s Fund.
But Crawford, for one, stacks up nicely against other so-called pure market timers, most of whom predict market gyrations based on more traditional factors, such as hard economic data. Crawford doesn’t recommend specific stocks. He doesn’t manage a portfolio. He simply writes a newsletter saying when investors ought to buy and sell stocks. And that’s something that can be tracked.
Over an eight-year period, Crawford’s performance ranks sixth out of roughly 100 market timing newsletters based on the number of times he has accurately called the market’s direction, says Jim Schmidt, editor of the Greenwich, Conn.-based Timer Digest. Crawford Perspectives’ five- and three-year performance also ranks among the top 10 of all the timers studied, Schmidt adds.
“There are a few other timers who have performed well consistently over long time periods,” Schmidt says. “But it’s a small group. It indicates that the model Crawford is using performs well in different cycles. That’s very important.”
That doesn’t mean Crawford beats the market in terms of total returns, adds Mark Hulbert, editor of Hulbert Financial Digest, an Alexandria, Va.-based service that also tracks the performance of investment advisory newsletters.
If you had bought and held a basket of stocks that tracked the Wilshire 5000 index over the last eight years, you would have earned an average annual return of 15.9%, Hulbert notes. Crawford’s buy and hold recommendations generated an estimated return of 14.4% over that period. However, because Crawford’s portfolio was significantly less volatile than the market as a whole, he consequently beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis, Hulbert says.
Why would planetary positions affect stock prices on Earth? Crawford thinks it might have something to do with market psychology.
“I believe it has to do with general levels of comfort and fear among the population,” he says.
Certain cosmic events--sun spots, planetary alignments and eclipses, for example--can make people feel euphoric or depressed. As with any product that experiences price swings based on supply and demand, no matter the fundamental values, if people aren’t in the mood to buy, the price of your product languishes, he says.
Still, Crawford doesn’t prognosticate based on the cosmos alone. He also examines a host of technical factors, ranging from interest rates and price-earnings ratios to chart analysis.
“I thought that astrology would give me just a little advantage over other technical analysts, which is all you need on Wall Street to make a lot of money,” he says. “I was shocked to find the tremendous edge that it does give. But I still would not use it alone. I figure the technical work keeps me ahead of the astrologers and the astrology keeps me ahead of the technicians.”
Does this mean you should add cosmic analysis into the mix when evaluating a stock? Maybe.
“We are in the covered-wagon days of using this as a science,” Crawford acknowledges. “Any prediction I make that’s more than five weeks out leans heavily on astrology, but as we get closer to the time frame, I lean more heavily on technical analysis. Since we really have too little understanding [of why and how financial astrology works], it’s best not to rush in with limited information.”
Kathy M. Kristof welcomes your comments and suggestions. Write to her in care of Personal Finance, Business Section, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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What’s in your financial stars?
Here’s the February financial forecast from Yvonne Morabito, author of “Dollar Signs: An Astrological Guide to Personal Finance":
ARIES: All the action comes to you. Powerful partnerships and explosive career opportunities seem to spring up magically at every turn. Push existing projects into full play. Avoid taking on added risk when investing; simply nurture and adjust your present portfolio.
TAURUS: Technology and communications endeavors, whether in the form of the purchase of a PC or an investment in technology stocks, prove potent. Especially mid-month, you have a keen sense for market movements. Be patient in matters of professional status and recognition. Promotions and bonuses are not likely this month.
GEMINI: Jump into an exciting entrepreneurial endeavor. Play some of the markets’ fast moves. Pitch new ideas and concepts. Opportunities and investments in communications, radio, computers, television, biotechnology, gambling and travel offer appeal, as do foreign joint ventures.
CANCER: Time for positive, well-needed changes in career objectives. Enhance current operations by better utilizing computers and strategizing with co-workers. Not a good time to take on debt. It’s too early to make changes in business and investments. Research now; act in March.
LEO: This is the beginning of a period of pure productivity. You are able to buckle down and work toward long-term goals. Focus on global projects. Investments in entertainment or media can prove highly profitable. Enormous partnership potential at this time.
VIRGO: Huge breaks this month, both financial and creative. Enhanced moneymaking ability, successful risk taking and career breakthroughs. Investments in technology, communications, electronics and aerospace pay off. Don’t hesitate to take on debt or raise money for entrepreneurial projects.
LIBRA: Speculative efforts could backfire badly now. Resist spontaneous career changes and spending sprees. But you may post substantial profits from well-researched investments or endeavors in businesses dealing in art, beauty, fashion, advertising, music, architecture or recreation.
SCORPIO: You are likely to get a raise or promotion. Tangible results from all those weeks of impossible deadlines, overwhelming responsibilities and constant caretaking. Use your eye for hidden value to invest in turnaround situations, particularly real estate ventures and renovations.
SAGITTARIUS: Lady luck shines on you in all matters of speculation, market trading and fund-raising. New projects go off with ease. Sudden upheavals are likely to launch you into exciting new directions. Take advantage of unexpected publicity. Get word out through computers and telemarketing.
CAPRICORN: Weed out dead aspects of business and financial life to make room for new growth. Restructuring and renovation of everything, from finances to home, highlighted. You are on the verge of long-term career growth and financial gain. Keep faith. Progress is slow but long-lasting.
AQUARIUS: Changes launch you into thrilling new projects and financial opportunities. Reach beyond your present circles. Ventures involving technology and telecommunications are likely to be home runs. Raise money, promote, meet, travel and enter new partnerships.
PISCES: Lie low until you see which tempting ventures have long-term potential. Piscean industries--advertising, entertainment, chemicals, photography, health care, drugs, oil and cosmetics--highlighted. Added magnetism near 27th increases odds of raise, promotion and added authority.