Shares in line for a savaging by Saturn

Tips for 2000: astro economists warn of a May meltdown, but industry experts say equities are heading higher
May, not April, could be the cruellest month after all. On 3 May, astro economists warn, there will be great volatility on the stock markets. The ramifications could be huge, affecting the economy at all levels and the general public.

How you cope with the upheaval will depend on your star sign. Those people born under Aries, Gemini and Aquarius should watch out as they will be the ones who find it hardest to adjust.

The cause of this tumult is the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn occurring at the point when Uranus is 90 degrees from both. The fact that this also happens in Taurus, the sign of business and personal money, could lead to huge problems for the financial world.

Arch Crawford, an astro economist, predicts that there will be a devastating decline in the stock market by the end of 2000. He claims that last week's full moon on the winter solstice is the start of that fall because it was like an eclipse; two other eclipses that took place on a solstice or equinox (June 1982 and September 1997) also had profound results for global markets.

This time, Mr Crawford foresees reversals in the big markets. Any shares that have risen sharply will soon peak and those that have not been performing well will reach their lowest point. So it could be time to sell those internet shares.

"There is the possibility of a rise in the first half of next year, but do not be lulled into a false sense of security as there will be a huge decline thereafter," warns Mr Crawford. "2000 is a year to preserve what you have rather than try and get rich by speculation. Be conservative and stick with established, reliable schemes that pay good rates of interest."

Virgos should not find this a problem as they are not known for risk- taking. However, it would be inappropriate for a Virgo to give a Scorpio financial advice. Scorpios are renowned for their financial astuteness; if they have a hunch, they back it. If anyone knows what to buy at the bottom of the market they do.

Astrologer Christeen Skinner, author of Money Signs: a beginner's guide, predicts that Virgos and Pisceans will respond best to the upheavals. But people born under Taurus, Cancer, Leo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius or Capricorn are also likely to be able to rebuild their finances and adjust to changing conditions.

Ariens could find this adjustment hard. For a start they are never wrong and, second, their attitude to money is that it comes and goes. Nevertheless, looking at long-term investment could prove worth while for Ariens, if a little boring.

Ms Skinner's advice is to keep the predictions about May in the back of your mind and "be as prepared as you can be for the unexpected". She believes that despite the warnings surrounding the Millennium Bug, its full effects may not be seen until next May. She sees the collapse of the banking system worldwide as being a distinct possibility. Uranus is the planet of unpredictability and also new technologies.

This, coupled with the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, could result in a massive electronic failure which would bring banking to a halt. If this happens, both individuals and companies will incur huge problems with their cash flows.

This prospect could cause panic among Cancerians, who are unwilling to put their precious money in the care of a bank. But their need for security and a nest egg may increase the attraction of investing in gold.

Saving is the key to survival in the approaching Jupiter-Saturn cycle. This could continue until 2010, when there may be a return to the spend- thrift days of the early 1980s.

Enjoy these while they last, though, as the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in 2020 will lead to an escalating level of credit and debt.