This is not a doom and gloom column, but it’s useful to be prepared when difficult times are ahead, and we have a few configurations coming that will put pressure on the financial markets and create some economic instability.

Jupiter and Saturn will make the final square of their year-long dance, forcing a confrontation between our desire for expansion and growth (Jupiter) and the hard cold facts of reality (Saturn). This occurs is nearly simultaneous to the first phase of the opposition between Saturn and Neptune (glamor and illusion) which will force us to face any delusions that we have been harboring.

This column is full of references to the significance of Pluto’s travels through Sagittarius (1995-2008) which are nearly complete, but one highlight of this cycle which is relevant to this discussion is the obsessive (Pluto) optimism (Sagittarius) which has been so pronounced during this period. The rise and fall of financial markets is based on the confidence (Sag) of consumers, and the entry of Pluto into Sagittarius in February of 1995 witnessed the Dow Industrial’s first ever close above 4,000 points. As we know, the stock market continued to rise driven by the dot com industries. (Uranus, which rules technology, had just entered the sign of Aquarius which is ruled by Uranus and therefore shares its attributes and technology became the rule of the day.) [Side note: the entry of Pluto into Sag also coincided with the Oklahoma City bombing which was the first of the major terrorist attacks in the US.] The stock market bubble did pop in 2000 when Jupiter and Saturn were conjunct in Taurus (material security).

The Pluto in Sagittarius cycle also has seen a worldwide rise in housing prices as well as personal debt, as the “irrationally exuberant” optimism of the period drove homeowners to pull equity out of their rapidly appreciating homes to finance their newly extravagant lifestyles. Speculation drove vacation home prices to stratosphereic levels based on the confidence that prices would continue to increase.

Jupiter/Saturn cycles correct the tendency to expand too quickly, and we are already seeing a pullback in housing prices as well as stock market prices. Saturn’s confrontation of Neptune’s love for illusion beginning this month will add another challenge. The financial news yesterday was mixed and that is likely to continue due to the tension between Jupiter’s confidence and expansion, Neptune’s love of fantasy, and Saturn’s disappointments and restrictions:

  • Big box retailers Home Depot, Walmart and Target had earnings that were less than expected, tied to a drop in consumer confidence.
  • Sales of existing homes fell 7% in the second quarter of 2006, with the most significant drops in the markets that had increased the most.
  • Stock prices surged yesterday in response to news that inflation has softened at the wholesale level, leaving investors hopeful that the interest rate increases were at an end.

If you’re an investor, this is a good time to re-evaluate your portfolio. Drop the stocks that have not performed well, they are not likely to improve during this cycle. This is a time for value investing in companies that focus on their product (Saturn rewards hard work and discipline) rather than improving the stock price (Neptune’s illusion). If you’re a homeowner, pay down your equity loan and NEVER take out a loan for more than 80% of the home’s value. This is a great time for first-time home buyers and families moving up to larger homes, but not a good time to pull the equity out of that dream house, although this may be a good time to sell that vacation investment property. Prices on vacation homes are overinflated due to speculation and are likely to drop over the next few years.

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