Lessons of financial astrology: the case of Bill Gross

(14 June 2015)  Bill Gross has to be wondering about his luck these days.  The former superstar Chief Investment Officer of PIMCO had earned the nickname "The Bond King" during the past twenty years as his company became the largest bond fund in the world.  His luck started to sour in 2011 when he made a very public call to get out of all US Treasuries in anticipation of rising interest rates and greater inflation as a result of the Federal Reserve's ongoing QE policy.   This decision proved to be disastrously wrong as Treasuries rallied further and yields fell to record lows.  As a result, PIMCO returns suffered and a growing number of investors withdrew their assets.  Things got so bad that Gross was forced to leave the firm in September of last year and now manages the much smaller Janus fund. 

Gross' fortunes appeared to be improving recently with a brilliant call to short German government bonds (Bunds).  At the time, 10-year Bunds were yielding just 0.10% and most analysts were suggesting they were quickly headed for negative yield territory as several other European sovereign bonds had already done.  On April 21st, Gross said that Bunds were the "short of a lifetime" and predicted that yields would begin to rise very soon.  Sure enough, they did start to rise within days of his call and began a shocking rise back to 1.0% after only a few weeks.  

Unfortunately, Gross' gutsy call did not translate into gains for his fund and his investors.  As he put it, the call was "well-timed, but poorly executed."  The problem was that he did not expect rates to rise so quickly in a straight line and therefore his short positions were too conservative and targeted a more range-bound trade. It was a bittersweet turn of events to be proven right but to not be able to capitalize on his assessment.

His horoscope (born April 13 1944, time unknown, Middletown, OH) reflects this very mixed picture.  While we do not know his time of birth, we can still offer some general observations about his chart that showed both sides of this situation.  At the time of his public prediction, Jupiter had just completed its retrograde station at 18 Cancer as was in a square alignment with Mercury (19 Aries).  Jupiter symbolizes wisdom and "right thoughts" and Mercury represents intellect and speech.  Mercury-Jupiter combinations are classic indications of intelligence and insightful thinking.   This alignment was punctuated by Mercury (19 Aries) and Mars (21 Aries) which were both conjunct his natal Mercury at the time.  While Jupiter was not forming a traditional trine aspect to Mercury, the alignment was made more significant because the recent station was so close to the degree of his Mercury. 

At the same time, however, the Moon's Nodes, Rahu and Ketu, were positioned in a more difficult place in his chart.  Ketu (South Node) was just 5 degrees from his Venus.  Ketu is considered a more spiritual planet that has an anti-materialist influence.  Since Venus is a planet that represents money, among other things, the wide conjunction of Ketu to Venus was inimical to material gains.  The other potentially negative influence here is that Rahu and Ketu were at 15 degrees of their respective signs and thus formed an exact square alignment to Mars (15 Gemini).  Moreover, the nodes had stationed at 15 Virgo/Pisces for several weeks, and thus their impact of Mars would be that much greater.  Both Mars and the nodes are considered naturally malefic planets so this combination loaded the cosmic dice against Mr Gross. 

To be sure, there are many other astrological layers to this story, but just on the level of transits alone and an untimed chart, we can see how  this situation may be evolved.  Jupiter's station aligning with Mercury was a key reason why we may have got the call right on the direction of German bond interest rates.  The Jupiter-Mercury alignment likely also reflected the public approval he enjoyed from getting it right.  But Venus was not similarly supported by a positive planet, and instead was conjunct Ketu, an often negative influence in money matters.  The Mars affliction likely reflected his frustration in the matter and was also not conducive to profit.

There are a couple of takeaways here.  One is that profitable investing usually requires good planetary alignments at the time when the gain is realized, i.e. when the stock or asset is sold.  Bill Gross had a very nice Jupiter alignment in April but it was fading in May as Jupiter began to move forward again.  The other thing to remember is that bad transits involving malefics (usually Mars Saturn, Rahu, Ketu) will often trump transits of good planets like Jupiter or Venus.  At very least, they will introduce some unwanted or unhelpful dimension to the event and often they can completely determine the overall outcome.  While these transits alone do not tell the whole story behind Bill Gross' inability to trade profitably in April and May, they offer useful clues on why he was unable to translate knowledge into profits..

Weekly Financial Update

Stocks were mixed last week as uncertainty over Greece weighed on sentiment.  The US and Europe were modestly higher in the week although India moved lower on interest rate concerns.  In last week's financial forecast, I thought that the planets offered some prospect for gains given the Sun-Jupiter and Moon-Uranus alignments.  

This week could see some moves in both directions.  The early week is dominated by the Sun-Mars conjunction which looks somewhat bearish.  This is especially the case given where it falls on the horoscope of the German DAX index, as it creates a square alignment with the natal Mars.  Word is out now (Sunday night, ET) that the latest round of Greek negotiations have failed so it would not be surprising to see European stocks fall early.  One would think US markets would likely follow suit.  The late week looks somewhat better, however, as the Moon aligns with Venus and Jupiter in Cancer on Friday.  If we do get some declines in the first half, I suspect there could be a rebound afterwards. 

The other point that deserves reiteration is that the Jupiter-Uranus aspect is very close to exact now and it happens to align nicely with the Ascendant of the DAX chart.  That seems like it should equate to some significant optimism later in June.