Fiery snake may warm markets

HONG KONG - The arrival of the Year of the Snake brings something economists have been waiting for: fire.

  • Published: 9/02/2013 at 02:16 PM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Chinese astrologers say the element of fire that dominates the new lunar year symbolises optimism, which could drive up confidence in the markets.

Feng Shui masters in Hong Kong claim fire will give a much-needed boost to the economy, making 2013 more charmed compared to the outgoing Year of the Dragon.

Astrologer and feng shui master Raymond Lo said fire has been missing since the beginning of the global economic meltdown in 2008.

"The strong fire this year is creating the positive mood, which is optimism and drive, bringing confidence to buy," Lo said in his annual forecast.

But the brokerage and investment company CLSA, which produces its own annual "tongue-in-cheek” predictions, warns the snake's charm will not last the whole year, with the fire burning out in the second half and bringing a return to volatility.

It said that would be due to the dampening effect of the element of water which is also dominant this year.

The snake is the sixth of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. There are five basic influencing elements - metal, water, wood, fire and earth - which alternate making a cycle of 60 years. Each of the elements also influences months, days and even the hours of the day.

Water is considered a destroyer of fire, and brings conflict, uprisings and revolutions and volatility for the economy.

However, there is also the influence of the female yin and the stronger male yang which fall on alternate years. As this is a yin year, the volatility is likely to less intense.

The CLSA Feng Shui Index (FSI), now in its 19th year, is produced by its analysts under the guidance of Chinese astrologers.

Its latest edition draws attention to the fact that there has been only one snake year since 1953 when the markets ended convincingly above their opening, with the last three snake years being the worst.

The FSI predicts a better first half for 2013 for the Hang Seng Index, with a "resources-led rally gaining momentum over May-July".

"It comes to a sudden end about August, as the crucial fire element all but dies away, earth falls, metal overshoots and water puts a damper on prospects," it said.

"The second half looks to be more volatile, with big swings in both directions, including a decent rise in the final month taking the Hang Seng Index back above where it started."

Industries expected to prosper in the Year of the Water Snake are those associated with the metal element, such as banking, finance, machinery, engineering and cars.

The FSI also predicts a tough year ahead for Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, a windfall for the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei, and a career change for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

As a shedder of skin, the snake has brought major transformations to the world in past years, the FSI said.

Previous water snake years witnessed the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, and the attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.

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