City in the Stars: Heavenly intruder

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The Independent Online
What is in the stars for the City? A rare conjunction of slow-moving Uranus and Neptune promises a year of tumultuous change, according to Isabel Unsworth, a former City analyst turned astrologer. Once Extel-rated for her work in the small companies sector while at UBS Phillips & Drew, she has left the City to pore over planet movements and birth signs. Her reading of the heavens indicates that her former colleagues and clients are running into an uncertain time. As for Norman Lamont, 1993 may not be a year to cherish.

(My Biggest Mistake returns next week)

The market should be prepared for a roller-year. Expect the unexpected. Shares will be highly volatile and prone to shocks and setbacks. There will also be the most exciting investment opportunities of the decade, but not for the faint-hearted.

Key dates are 2 February, 20 August and 24 October. Mark these in your diary and do not go away on holiday.

This year will mark the high tide of the revolutionary pressures that have shaped the decade so far. There is a rare conjunction of the two outer planets, Uranus and Neptune, in the sign of Capricorn. These two orbit the sun so slowly that this only occurs every 172 years.

Previous conjunctions fell in 1485 (Battle of Bosworth) and 1649 (the execution of Charles I) , which were turning points in our history. The last conjunction was in 1821 when there was royal scandal (George IV divorced his queen for adultery), economic depression and social unrest.

Companies that are innovative and flexible will prosper in this climate. Institutions that base their authority on continuity and links with the past will have to modernise or die. Investors should look carefully at the blue chips in their portfolio to see how they match up to these criteria. It is not a year for safety first.

For companies that have forgotten they exist to serve a wider group than their directors and that resist accountability to customers or shareholders, time is up. The banks, building societies and insurance companies should be avoided. Lloyd's of London also faces another year of unremitting gloom. Sell any company with royal links and look askance where there is a peer on the board.

Sectors that look promising are drinks and brewing, transport and telecommunications, but stick to Cable and Wireless - 1993 will be a good year for companies with Chinese connections - rather than British Telecom.

One potential winner this year is the Bank of England. It can put recent difficulties behind it and the new Governor will have a chance to rebuild its authority and prestige to a level not seen in well over a decade. It will not, however, achieve independence until the mid 1990s.

The recession will end - but there will still be financial hardship for many. The greatest threat to business this year, however, will come from political instability both at home and abroad.

The good news is that Norman Lamont will leave the Treasury in the spring and will probably retire from politics by the next election. John Major will continue to be undermined by behind-the-scenes bickering at Westminster. The real horror story is the Conservative Party itself, which is heading for breakdown by next winter. A betting man would put money on a general election.

Looking overseas, the best bet for investors is the US, especially in the first half of the year. The autumn is more problematic, which roughly defines the length of the Clinton honeymoon. Japan has several more bruising years ahead and should be used for short-term trading only. Germany faces a very difficult year but France looks a relatively safe haven. The dark horse is Hong Kong, but this is strictly for the gamblers.

(Photograph omitted)