Specialist financial astrologers report that they are consulted on a regular basis by fund managers but are not prepared to name clients. We asked 18 leading investment groups whether any of their fund managers used astrology to assist with their investment decision making - all replied that they didn't.
Astrologers cannot advise in an official capacity because they are not licensed to give advice under the Financial Services Act, so it is possible that those fund managers who consult them don't tell their employers.
It's a secretive world, but there's a lot of activity out there, and several astrologers make a decent living out of predicting stock market movements according to the stars. Interest in this field has boomed since the stock market crash in 1987, which was accurately predicted by many of them. Since then they have boasted a formidable string of triumphs, claiming success rates as high as 85 per cent.
A small survey of independent financial advisers found only one who was broad-minded enough to comment on the record. Fiona Price, managing director of Fiona Price & Partners, in London, says: "I know that some major investment companies use astrology and I have used it in my own personal life for many years and found it extremely effective. I see no reason why it shouldn't be equally effective in investment management."
Financial astrologers, or indeed any kind of astrologers, do not attempt to paint a definite irrevocable picture of what will happen in the future. They point instead to strong influences that may lead to situations coming about. A knowledge of these can assist with investment timing decisions.
Christeen Skinner, a leading business and financial astrologer in South London, says: "I think it's almost irrelevant whether you are using astrology, pigs entrails or Swiss rainfalls. You have to use what works and it's simply a fact that planetary movements affect the markets. People should be comforted by the fact that most of what has happened during the past 15 years has been predicted by astrologers."
Nobody is likely to take much comfort in her predictions. The investment implications of the Kosovo campaign are apparently huge and she sees no end to the conflict. She suggests a long and bloody ground war will be accompanied by hungry populations from Russia and China invading Europe as crop shortages result from changing weather patterns dating back to 1990.
Over in the US there are well-developed internet sites offering astrological tracking of the markets. AstroEcon interprets planetary movements for investors for $100 (pounds 60) a quarter (see box).
Robert Hitt, who runs the site, says: "The long-term investor should be on notice that alignments in May 2000 are once-in-a-few-thousand-year celestial events that should be the focal point of some kind of global crisis. As markets usually discount these things in advance, the low in stocks should come earlier than May 2000, maybe in October to December 1999."
Not surprisingly, many commentators rubbish astrological predictions. Dr Dorothy Rowe, a psychologist and author, for example, expresses great sadness that so many otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people believe in astrology.
In the Real Meaning of Money (HarperCollins pounds 7.99) she writes: "This fantastic notion that planets millions of miles away from us determine our destiny may have been around for thousands of years, but that doesn't make it true. Human stupidity can be impregnable to reason."
n Further information: `Astrology as an investment tool', a seminar by Christeen Skinner, takes place on 5 June in London. Cost pounds 65. Call 0181-698 7421. A good introductory guide is `Money & The Markets: an Astrological Guide' by Graham Bates & Jane Bowles. From Equinox, pounds 9.99.
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Robert Hitt, at US website AstroEcon, highlights some important days for investors with an eye on planetary movements. More information at http://www.astroecon.com
31 May. This is a high-energy period as markets should be on or near a short-term high. The influence of Pluto may cause any rally to be sharper because of a stimulation of the element of greed.
24 June. This is a crisis day that should be very tense. Days such as these often present opportunities to invest on weakness when prices are low. Watch Russia for a crisis period.
8 August. This is a Grand Cross (four planets at 90 degrees) involving the sun, Mars, Uranus and Saturn. A Grand Cross can be considered a "constantly rotating crisis". This period may only last a few weeks but may leave a lasting result. Extreme caution is urged on speculation. This may be associated with a very large drop in stocks.