Will the Real Rick Santelli Stand Up?

Ever since CNBC commentator Rick Santelli made his rant heard ’round the world from Chicago’s commodity trading pits, I’ve been searching for his birthdate.

I haven’t succeeded. However, Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture is quoting some persuasive evidence that Santelli is the front-man for a far-right GOP organization. Check it out!

There’s more than meets the eye to Santelli’s seemingly spontaneous eruption against Obamanation and his call for a “Chicago tea party.” Anybody got a birthday on Santelli? Love to hear about it.

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The Next LOL Cats: Sad Guys on Trading Floors?

We’ve all seen dozens of pictures of traders looking sad as the market has tanked since Sept. 8, the Monday that Pluto went direct.

This Web site brings them all together, from markets all over the world, with some pretty funny captions. It’s called, quite simply, Sad Guys on Trading Floors. I hope the creators make some money out of it. This could even replace the LOL Cats.

By the way, I got this link from market maven Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture, who credits boingboing.net.

I can has stop-loss order?

It’s Time to Get the Big Picture

First, apologies to Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture, one of my favorite financial blogs, for borrowing his title for my headline.

I actually discovered The Big Picture about three years ago. I was fed up with all the dribs and drabs of financial information I was receiving and on a whim, I typed the words “The Big Picture” into Google. That’s how I discovered Ritholtz’s Web site.

Throughout my life, one way that I’ve consoled myself when things weren’t going well is to step back and take a really big view of the situation. In high school, when my best friend committed suicide and I was overwhelmed with grief, I started reading Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.

About a month after my friend shot her head off with her father’s hunting rifle, I was in a very serious car accident. I was in the hospital for a month with internal injuries. When I got out, I was depressed because I had a four-inch scar on my left leg. It was time to get the really big picture.

For the next year or so, I methodically made my way through all 11 volumes in Will and Ariel Durant’s Story of Western Civilization. I now know that the story of civilization that I was reading was a Euro-centric, patriarchal version, but that’s another post. Reading about the fall of the Roman empire and the Crusades made my problems seem small in comparison.

I gradually recovered from my psychic and physical injuries, but I never lost my love for stepping back and taking the long view.

Of course, having the Internet at your disposal makes it easy to do this. Last week, as I was searching for some nugget of truth about what’s happening to our world, I came upon an old post from Dharmaruci at AstroTableTalk.

He wrote it in 2004, for the Astrological Association Journal of Britain. He reprinted it on his Web site in 2006. It’s a prediction for the world from 2008-2015.

Here’s a little teaser to get you to click on that link:

Says Dharmaruci: “My prediction – which I will try to justify – is that there will be an oil crisis that will change everything. This crisis will come about either because the supply will at last be unable to meet the ever-growing demand, and/or because the major powers, anxious about the continuity of supplies, will take pre-emptive action.

The major powers may become to some extent military societies as their survival is threatened, and they may take over many of the oil-producing countries in order to secure supplies, as well as fighting amongst themselves. Nuclear weapons will probably play a part in this.

This situation will result in a worldwide crisis in which governments, sovereignties, state boundaries and the basic way we structure our societies will change radically. There will eventually be a Second Great Depression and possibly a reversal of the trend towards globalisation and free trade.

Positively, the unreality of basing our economies around an ephemeral source of energy will gradually become accepted.” (italics mine)

The prescience of this article is positively mind-blowing. Check it out.

Now, you may ask why knowing that the end of oil is nigh and that we’re probably headed toward a Great Depression makes me feel better. Good question.

Well, first of all, it liberates me from my tendency to fret about stupid little things, like the fact that my favorite coat got bleached by the sun when I left it hanging on the porch for months.

Getting bogged down by petty material concerns is a tendency of mine with Saturn conjunct Mercury in Capricorn, at the IC, no less. Understanding that soaring energy costs were part of the reason why people didn’t pay their mortgages, triggering the fall of Wall Street’s house of cards frees me from my usual nit-picking.

Since I can’t control how much oil is left in the earth and probably won’t be inventing an alternative energy source in my garage, I feel entitled to focus on the things that are really important to me — cultivating relationships, to start. With the market meltdown, the phone has been ringing and the e-mails have been coming in. I haven’t heard from this many friends and family since September 11, 2001.

My other priorities: participating in events and networks that bring about change (I’m not a helpless bystander on this earth, after all), taking care of body and soul, and savoring the small pleasures in life, like the beautiful red cardinal that was in the backyard today.

It’s often said that the “devil is in the details.” But for me, the Divine is in the details. The paradox is that in order to recognize It (as opposed to sweating the small stuff), I have to step back and look at the big picture. Then I can move forward.

Buddy, Can You Spare a Bailout?

Wall Street’s excited about the prospect of a new regulatory agency along the lines of the Resolution Trust Co. of the 1980s, which helped nearly 800 insolvent savings and loans gradually sell off their mortgages.

We’re getting quite close to the Mercury retrograde of Sept. 23. Things announced under a Merc retrograde often don’t come to pass or the terms of the deal change significantly. So, though my financial advice is for entertainment purposes only, view any rally on Wall Street right now as an exit opportunity.

There’s a full Moon at 21 Taurus on Nov. 13 that falls on the New York Stock Exchange Sun. The full Moon (Taurus/Scorpio) squares nebulous Neptune and the North Node. If this isn’t the evaporation of wealth (Taurus), I don’t know what is.

Interesting that an RTC-type agency is being considered by our Republican Administration. I thought the Republicans were the party that promised to “get government off our backs.” Clearly, when those in need are banks and brokerages on Wall Street, the GOP has no problem having Uncle Sam play sugar daddy.

Let’s see how the government reacts when this credit crisis trickles down and lots of folks can’t make their student loan payments because they’ve lost their job in a depression. Will the party in power be feeling so generous then?

Evidently, I’m not the only who’s thinking about these things. Check out Jim Moore at Huffington Post on the Republicans turned socialists.

I don’t expect our government to stand idly by and let the financial system melt down. But if bailouts for Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, and possibly others are the “carrot,” where is the stick? How about some regulations on banking industry interest rates and fees in exchange for the government largesse?

Case in point: The other day I went to a McDonald’s to use the ATM because I know the ones there only charge 99 cents. When I went online later that day and saw the $100.99 deduction on my bank account, I noticed there was also a $2 fee that went to the Actors Credit Union, which operates the ATMs in several Manhattan McDonald’s.

What was the $2 charge for? For looking at my balance on the screen in the McDonald’s before I made the withdrawal! At no point when I asked to see my balance was I told that I was going to be charged for it and that I was going to pay twice the fee assessed for withdrawing money. This is ridiculous, folks!

My other thought about the creation of a neo-RTC: It might not be good for the McCain campaign. Why? Because there are a lot of folks out there not old enough or too old to remember that John McCain was involved in a scandal involving an S&L called Lincoln Savings & Loan, which was run by Charles Keating.

Five U.S. Senators were accused of “improperly aiding” Keating, according to the Wiki. One of them was John McCain. The Arizona senator was ultimately “cleared of impropriety but criticized for poor judgment.”

Of course, I wouldn’t want to be reminded of all the mistakes I made in the 1980s, but then I’m not running for President either.

Just to put in a plug for my favorite market maven (I promise you I’m not on his payroll and I know for a fact that he can’t buy into astrology): I was surfing yesterday using the keyword “bailout” and discovered that Barry Ritholtz has a new book coming out called The Bailout Nation: How Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy. Talk about prescient!

Now, if only the rest of us bloggers can turn our daily musings into a potential best-seller!

Revenge of the Permabears

There is a group of money managers and economists that has been bearish for so long that its members have been given the nickname “the permabears.” Some of these guys have been warning about a collapse of the U.S. financial system since the early 1990s, based on unmanageable levels of debt.

Of course, some are technical traders who watch charts and they don’t fight a trend. As a result, from time to time they have advised their clients to buy — during the Tech Boom, for instance. Deep down inside, though, they knew the Day of Reckoning was coming. (This is not my phrase; it’s the title of a book by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg, published in 1993.)

Who are these permabears? Well, James Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer springs immediately to mind. Heck, Grant has been bearish for as long as I can remember, and I arrived in New York as a fresh-faced financial markets devotee in 1982. Before founding his newsletter in 1983, Grant wrote a column for Barron’s.

Another guy who I would put in the permabear camp is my old friend Michael Belkin. I noted in a recent post on Nikolai Kondratiev how Belkin called the top of the Nikkei in December, 1989, just before it crashed and dragged Japan into a decade-long recession (some would say depression).

I’ve been surfing the Net today looking for insight and inspiration now that the Dow has penetrated the key 10,800 level set back in July 2003, which technical traders call a support level. I have previously warned that if this number was breached, the market could be moving significantly lower, though there might be some big upswings on the way down.

I haven’t found a lot of forward-thinking posts today. Maybe folks are shell-shocked, to use the word coined to describe the post-traumatic stress syndrome of World War I.

However, I did stumble upon what market maven Barry Ritholtz called the “Quote of the Day” on July 29, though it was written by Belkin in his market commentary The Belkin Report on July 6.

“Most global stock indexes have decisively broken below their 200 week moving averages, which is a major trend reversal…. Potential downside targets after a 200 week average breakdown are 1) the 200 month average and 2) The previous 2002-2003 lows. Those levels are 25%-47% below current levels for most stock indexes. U.S. financial indexes are already there (BKX, XLF). So don’t think it can’t happen for the broader market and other currently elevated indexes, stocks and groups.”

Friends, that was written when the Dow was roughly at 13,611!

Belkin, as usual, was ahead of the curve. Using astrological indicators, I issued my run-for-the-exits warning (The August Eclipse: Sell! Sell! Sell!) on Aug. 13, three days before the August eclipse.

If you wait long enough, one day Chicken Little will be right: The sky will be falling! It appears the permabears are finally in the ascendance. It’s amazing to me that these guys were fretting about debt back in the early 1990s. I wish I had the figures at hand to show you how U.S. government, corporate, and individual indebtedness has skyrocketed since then.

According to the Telegraph of London, U.S. “household debt is now 131% of disposable income, compared with 93% at the top the dot-com bubble, 79% in the property boom of the late-1980s, and 62% at the end of the 1970s.” Well, that’s some indication of the explosion in personal indebtedness.

This same article, published Aug. 19, 2008, which talks about debt levels cited a huge drop in M3. That’s a measure of broad money supply that the Fed stopped releasing back in 2005. Its “disappearance” was viewed as a sign that Wall Street was heading toward a crash.

So the information about the Day of Reckoning was out there in July and August, if you knew where to look. I wish I could say it ain’t so, Joe, but this feels like the Real McCoy to me.

Remembering Kondratiev, the Martyr Economist

Back in the early 1990s, when Uranus and Neptune were conjunct in Capricorn, I became quite interested in the work of Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev (also spelled Kondratieff), who was born March 4, 1892 in Kostroma, Russia..

How about that? I’m writing about Kondratiev the day before the anniversary of his death, Sept. 17, 1938.

Kondratiev got in trouble with his Marxist bosses for positing the existence of a “long wave” that surfaced every 60 years in capitalism. The Marxists believed that capitalism was hurtling toward its end, not that it was an enduring system racked by periodic turmoil. As a result, Kondratiev suffered for his theory. He was sent to the dreaded Gulag and was sentenced to death.

As this chart from Astrodienst (with transits of today) shows, Kondratiev was a visionary Pisces Sun conjunct Mercury. He had a T-square in mutable signs — Jupiter in Pisces opposing Saturn in Virgo both square Mars in Sagittarius.

This is a personal observation, but I’ve noticed Jupiter/Saturn contacts in the charts of several noteworthy economists — Nouriel Roubini, the latest “Dr. Doom,” has Jupiter sextile Saturn, as did John Maynard Keynes. As Liz Greene has noted in her research on the Jupiter/Saturn cycles, these two planets have a lot to do with socioeconomic trends.

Many economists are hoist with their own petard, to quote the Bard, but Kondratiev’s death sentence was a cruel fate indeed for a practitioner of the Dismal Science. Without an exact time of birth, it’s hard to determine exactly why it happened.

I need to do more work on the chart, but I can see that Neptune was at his Sun/Jupiter midpoint when he died, as this chart shows. Reinhold Ebertin, in The Combination of Stellar Influences, says this aspect can result in “the undermining of the health, material loss.”

Back when I was reading about Kondratiev, I knew a fair number of commodities traders. They were followers of Robert Prechter, a devotee of the Elliott Wave, as well as W.D. Gann, a legendary trader who reportedly used astrology to time the markets.

I became a member of the Foundation for the Study of Cycles, a group that publishes Cycles magazine. Alice had indeed fallen down the Rabbit Hole!

As technical traders in the commodities markets know, you can become enmeshed in a net of confusion studying various cycles and waves. As computer screens of stochastic oscillators and Fibonacci numbers give way to a metaphysical discussion of the Golden Mean and fractals, the lines between the fields of finance, science, and the occult become quite blurred. Ah, Neptune in Capricorn: I remember it well!

Followers of Kondratiev like myself were waiting for the bottom to drop out of the U.S. economy in the early 1990s because it was roughly 60 years after the Great Crash of 1929. But though the economy suffered twin recessions in the early ’90s following the Crash of 1987, a Thirties-style Depression never materialized. What happened instead was globalization (Pluto into Sagittarius in 1995) and the advent of the Internet (Uranus into Aquarius, also in ’95) combined to usher in a new era of expansion.

As much as I believe in Kondratiev’s 60-year cycle, I also subscribe to the idea of a roughly 100-year cycle operating in U.S. history. A few quick examples: War of 1812 and World War I, Civil War in the 1860s and upheaval and Vietnam War in the 1960s, financial panics in 1873 and 1973.

When Pluto went into Sagittarius, I got back into the business of trying to earn a living and put my cycles studies aside. But this week’s events are bringing me back to the 100-year cycle.

Market maven Barry Ritholtz has blogged on a book called The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market’s Perfect Storm by Robert F. Bruner and Sean Carr (McGraw-Hill, 2007).

Now, Wall Street Weather is making the connection between 1907 and yesterday’s bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the merger between Merrill Lynch and Bank of America that occurred under the “Harvest” Full Moon in Pisces.

You may know that the Panic of 1907 led to the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. You can see the Fed chart here. The Fed’s natal chart is being transited through the end of the year by expansive Jupiter. Then, it’s going to be activated by Pluto in Capricorn, as it was earlier this year.

Remember, things don’t always work perfectly, so the Panic of 1907 and the Collapse of 2008 are 101 years apart, not a century. It’s close enough for me. If readers have any ideas about the astrological aspects that might produce a 100-year cycle, I’d be very interested to hear about them.

Raging Universe on Raging Markets

I was up into the wee hours of the morning at my day job, posting stories about the impending bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the hastily arranged merger between Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, and the “restructuring” of AIG.

I had planned to sleep until noon, but my curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to see how the markets would open at 9:30 a.m.

I’m awake, but too dazed to analyze why this is happening now. The financial turmoil seems to be coinciding with today’s full Harvest Moon at 5:13 a.m. Of course, the eclipse back in August squaring the New York Stock Exchange natal Sun was my signal to move to cash. Still, I didn’t think things were going to be quite as crazy as this.

Fortunately, Raging Universe has his wits about him. Here’s what he has to say about the Full Moon at 22 degrees of Pisces conjunct Uranus and the chaotic financial markets.

It’s interesting that Hurricane Ike hit Houston as the Sun in Virgo opposed Uranus at 20 degrees of Pisces. Now, financial commenters are calling the combination of last night’s financial events “Wall Street’s Perfect Storm.” Uranus in Pisces: hurricanes in Houston and on Wall Street.

If you’re looking for more intelligence on the Wall Street meltdown, check out my favorite finance maven, Barry Ritholtz, who blogs at The Big Picture.

The economist of the hour is Nouriel Roubini, who was on Bloomberg TV last night, predicting “disaster” for the U.S. financial system that “is going to get worse.” Why? Because we’re drowning in debt. (If you click on this TV interview with Roubini, be patient.)

I’ve blogged about Roubini, whom the press has dubbed “Dr. Doom,” which was also the moniker of famed economist Henry Kaufman the last time Saturn was in Virgo.

I hope that today’s Dr. Doom is being quite careful about what he says, because in this video here, he’s talking about the possibility of a run on U.S. banks. He’s encouraging Congress to immediately recapitalize the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insures deposits of up to $100,000. The danger of even saying something like this in today’s environment is that it will trigger a panic.

Fannie and Freddie: More Welfare for Wall Street

Interesting that we’re hearing the feds are going to take over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the eve of Jupiter going direct in Capricorn. Jupiter is expansion and Capricorn rules the financial establishment.

The lingo Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is using is “conservatorship,” but in reality the mortgage outfits are being nationalized — by a Republican Administration.

As many financial commentators have noted, these stopgap measures to prop up the U.S. financial system are merely postponing the day of reckoning. The Fannie/Freddie bailout is going to benefit the mostly institutional holders of its bonds and mortgage-backed securities, but owners of its common shares are still at risk.

If you’re looking for more detail on the bailout from a Wall Street source, here’s a link to my favorite money maven Barry Ritholtz.

One of my first posts when I started writing this blog on Mar. 17 made the link between Jupiter in Capricorn and the efforts of the U.S. government to avert a financial crisis by rescuing Bear Stearns.

Back then, Pluto was making its test-drive in Cap. Now, it’s back in Sagittarius and going direct. Hold on to your hats! This fall’s financial roller-coaster ride is just beginning!

Nouriel Roubini: The New Dr. Doom

You know the way some people gush over movie stars and athletes? With a Sun/Mercury/Saturn in financially-minded Capricorn opposing a cyclical Cancer Moon, I get a little starry-eyed over economists.

Maybe the reason why practitioners of the so-called Dismal Science get my heart beating a little faster is because I secretly consider them to be fellow travelers. After all, both economists and astrologers spend their time poring over charts and making prognostications. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from economist John Kenneth Galbraith: “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

Earlier this year, I wrote an ode to the late economist Hyman Minsky and I’ve been known to blow virtual kisses at market maven Barry Ritholtz.

I’m out of town so I’m just catching up with this New York Times Sunday Magazine story on Nouriel Roubini, whom I quoted in my Minsky post. Don’t have time to read it right now? Here’s a key point:

Only a handful of 20th-century economists have even bothered to study financial panics. (The most notable example is probably the late economist Hyman Minksy, of whom Roubini is an avid reader.) “These are things most economists barely understand,” Roubini told me. “We’re in uncharted territory where standard economic theory isn’t helpful.”

The NYT has dubbed Roubini “Dr. Doom.” Want to know the last time the mainstream media nicknamed an economist Dr. Doom? Interestingly enough, it was when Saturn was last in Virgo, 29 years ago. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Salomon Brothers chief economist Henry Kaufman had that moniker. Kaufman was a talking head who influenced markets during the tenure of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker. You can read about that period here.

I love the symbolism: Dr. Doom as a finance icon is having his Saturn return! By the way, the original Dr. Doom is still going strong at age 80. Henry Kaufman runs an eponymous consulting firm and gets a seat on the dais at Economic Club of New York functions in honor of his longevity.

Why is Roubini, the new Dr. Doom, getting so much ink right now? He is an Aries born Mar. 29, 1958, according to the Wiki. You can see Roubini’s chart with transits and progressions of Aug. 17, the day the NYT article was published, here courtesy of Astrodienst.

Interesting that Roubini’s progressed Sun and Moon are conjunct in late Taurus. This often signifies marriage or the beginning of a new creative partnership. The economist’s got the transiting North Node, which is traveling with Neptune and Chiron, on his Venus/natal Chiron in Aquarius right now. The Sun was a little past an opposition to his Venus on Aug. 17.

The transiting North Node, which is good for connections with the public, is bringing attention from the media, and increasing Roubini’s popularity, though the article mentions his perennial “outsider” status. I believe this reflects the conjunction of Chiron, the Wounded Healer, with Venus in his natal chart. The son of Iranian Jews who was raised in Turkey, Roubini is an immigrant. So is the original Dr. Doom, Henry Kaufman, whose family left Germany to escape Hitler after living through the hyperinflation of the 1920s.

Let’s hope the two Dr. Dooms, and the rest of us, don’t have to live through U.S. hyperinflation of the 2010s.

The W-Shaped Recession


This just in, as Paul Harvey likes to say, from Standard & Poor’s Economics. The purveyors of the so-called dismal science are sometimes inadvertantly funny. To wit:

“First-quarter growth was little revised (0.9% from 1.0%), but the 2007 fourth quarter was revised to minus 0.2% from plus 0.6%, making the downturn look much more like a “W”-shaped recession, according to S&P Economics.”

Let’s hope the media remembers to call it the “W” recession once the next President is in office so we’ll remember that this mess is the legacy of George W. Bush.

I couldn’t resist posting this as a comment to Barry Ritholtz’ coverage of the surprising jump in unemployment claims. His site, The Big Picture, is indispensable, in my humble opinion, for its unvarnished coverage of the economic scene.