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.