Nostradamus foresaw catastrophic earthquakes. The Aztecs thought it might mean the end of the world. Arch Crawford won't be that specific.
Arch Crawford won't say much about the celestial event astrologers have long foretold for the first year of the 2000s. Except: Sometime around May 4 or 5, seven heavenly bodies will conjoin in an extraordinary, ominous way.
"It's the Big One," Mr. Crawford said.
Investors beware: The last time Mr. Crawford predicted the sky would fall, it did. The financial astrologer first came to renown in 1987 when he called the October stock market crash. "Be out of all stocks by Aug. 24!," he warned clients in his Crawford Perspectives Newsletter, which promises "astrologically accurate market timing."
Since then, despite a bearish bent, Mr. Crawford's fortunes have been respectable, if somewhat less than stellar. His method -- which combines the technical analysis he picked up as a researcher at Merrill Lynch with painstaking plotting of planetary cycles and astronomic events -- has returned an annualized 11.4% from 1989 through this year's first quarter, compared with 18.1% for the Wilshire 5000 index, according to Hulbert Financial Digest, Alexandria, Va.
Q: How do you explain the stock market's continued defiance of bearish bodings you keep forecasting?
A: Insanity. We're having the wildest and craziest mania in history. The madness and insanity have now outstripped tulip mania and the South Sea bubble.
Q: Is it an astrologically based madness? Sun spots, perhaps?
A: Not really. I think it's millennium fever. The last millennium, the fever was about the crusades and that went on for 400 years.
Q: What have been the most significant astrologically influenced financial events of this millennium?
A: There was the top in '87, of course. Then, one of the worst days of the century -- Aug. 6, 1990 -- a lunar eclipse formed a grand cross. Mars was opposite Pluto and at 90 degree angles to the moon and the sun. I didn't know what it would do to the market, but I figured it would be bad. In my newsletter, I had warned readers to watch out Aug. 2 through Aug. 7. Of course, on Aug. 2, Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait, and the market went down 107 points.
I also predicted the date -- Jan. 28, 1986 -- that the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Again, I wasn't sure what would happen, only that something would.
Then, in April '86, there was an eclipse of the moon conjunct to Pluto, and two days later Chernobyl blew up. Pluto, as you know, rules nuclear energy and radiation.
Later, in September '97, there was an eclipse of the sun including Venus, Pluto and Saturn. I couldn't figure out what it would do; I looked it up and it said tragic love. I put that in my newsletter a month before Princess Diana died.
Q: What are the major upcoming astrological events? How will they affect investors?
A: One of the largest is the eclipse of the sun on Aug. 11. It's another one of these grand crosses. I believe it will be the worst part of a devastating decline in the market. I'm predicting a 35% to 50% decline, which could bottom as late as October, but more probably late August or early September. We are topping right now.
But the Big One is next year -- May 4 or 5, 2000.
Q: The Big One?
A: We'll have seven bodies within 34 degrees: the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn -- all of the visible planets. The Mayans saw it, the Aztecs saw it. It's the only time all the visible planets will ever be in that tight an area. They're only in the same quarter of the sky every 180 years.
Q: So, what will happen?
A: I'm looking at something on the magnitude of something greater than anything we have ever seen or heard about. . . . Some people say it will be the end of the world, some say it will cause a major evolutionary leap. Nostradamus saw major earthquakes.
Q: What should investors do, assuming it's not the literal end of the world?
A: Well, it won't be worth selling short, because no one will be around to pay off.
Q: I think I know the answer here, but are you generally bullish or bearish on investing at the start of the next millennium?
A: If we make it through, I'll turn bullish. But I'm extremely bearish right now. I don't think the political, psychic or spiritual signs from this point on will be good for the market. The markets like greed, they don't like spirituality.
Q: Can you offer investors any more specific advice? Are there any sectors you like? Bonds? Commodities?
A: Looking at just the technical chart on interest rates, there's that long-term downtrend that's just broken to indicate much higher rates. Bonds go down when rates go up. So, in terms of safety, I would stay to the shorter end of the bond market.
Q: Are you shorting the stock market?
A: I'm in the Rydex Ursa Fund. It's a bear fund that shorts futures contracts of the S&P 500 stock index.
For the near term I want safety. That means short-term bonds and nothing else. If pushed, I guess I'd tell investors to put the bulk of money in Treasury bills and notes. Maybe spread it to some foreign currencies and bonds, until the things we talked about play out.
Basically, you'll want to be out or short as we get close to the millennium. I don't know for sure where the low will be -- probably August or September -- but whether the market's down 500 points or 5,000, if the world holds together until Jan. 1, there should be a rally until May 5.
Q: Anything else we should know -- if we're still here?
A: I'll give you one more longer-term date to watch out for: The end of the Mayan calendar is coming in December 2012.