If you knew astrology had a hand in managing the investments that will make up your pension, you might be more than a little worried. Astrology for most of us is about Mystic Meg and occasionally entertaining horoscope columns in newspapers and magazines. But real money invested on the basis of the movements of Jupiter and Uranus - surely not?
The claim is that pounds 10bn worth of investment funds in Europe and the US are influenced, directly or indirectly, by astrology. In the US there is even said to be an Astrologer's Fund promising (inevitably) "stellar returns".
Using the movements of the planets to make economic and financial forecasts might seem a poor way of safeguarding your savings, but financial astrologers claim their method is gaining acceptance in the City. Indeed, there have been suggestions for years that private investors and big investors in the City consult astrologers, though only recently have some of those involved been prepared to risk public disclosure.
Last year Arch Crawford, an American astrologer and analyst, gained a following on Wall Street thanks to some surprisingly accurate investment forecasts. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced last September that "astro-economics" played a role in its investment strategy. Mark Curtis, the EBRD's treasurer, while not a believer in astrology, described the influence of certain planetary alignments on markets as "uncanny".
In Asia, astrology is a more ackowledged part of the investment scene. In Hong Kong, Feng Shui practitioners who use planetary alignments in their market forecasts are widely followed.
The academic world may ridicule astrology, but stockmarket practitioners appear to have taken a more pragmatic view of it in their pursuit of profits. It is simply an extra tool.
Where it is used, it is almost certainly alongside conventional investment techniques - in turn making its effectiveness that much more difficult to prove.
Roy Gillett is a western financial astrologer with 10 years' experience in the field who boasts both investment firms and private investors as clients. He claims to have been involved in helping a number of major City institutions to incorporate planetary tables in their computer systems. And he maintains that planetary cycles are a lot more down-to-earth than many mainstream investment indicators.
A number of modern-day investment analysts have come to financial astrology after studying the work of WD Gann, the legendary US investor. Gann is said to have amassed a $40m fortune on Wall Street before the Second World War using an extremely complex numerical trading system which reportedly had astrology at its core. Gann's references to esoteric philosophy encouraged the belief that ancient predictive tools could be successfully applied to investment.
Financial astrologers look at the movements of planets and correlate these with economic data to make forecasts. Forget staring into crystal balls and wearing pointed hats - nowadays a financial astrologer is more likely to be analysing computer data covering thousands of combinations of planetary cycles.
Andy Pancholi, the founder of Cycles Research in Britain, claims that astrology can be particularly useful in forecasting stock-market turning points and he maintains that it gives the investor a potentially useful edge over those not prepared to consider planetary patterns.
He notes, too, the possibility of increased use of astrological forecasts becoming self-fulfilling. If enough investors believe that a planetary pattern indicates a turning point then their combined activity will tend to make the forecast come true.
Astrologers argue that different stock markets seem to respond to different planetary patterns. Mars is often linked to the FT-SE 100 index of leading UK shares. Mars takes around two years to complete its orbit of the sun and the claim is that share prices tend to reach a high when it is in the sign of Libra and fall to a low as Mars moves on into the sign of Pisces.
Mars was at the beginning of Libra at the start of this month.
The forecast is for a fall to around 4,050 by early August, which would represent a drop of 10 per cent and which is not far from many analysts' conventional forecasts.
q Sean Lovatt is a financial astrologer. Steve Lodge is a Gemini.
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