Mercury is the planetary energy of movement, communication, and commerce. For three weeks every three to four times a year Mercury appears from Earth’s vantage point to be moving backward in the sky. This is called Mercury retrograde (March 30 at 4:48 PM EDT until 6:04 AM April 23, 2011).
This post explores the Mercury retrograde cycle and its potential influence on the markets, geopolitics, and geophysical phenomena. The April 3 New Moon in Aries, the first sign of the zodiac is the time of the year to make a new start, but Mercury retrograde means it is time to take a new approach to dealing with existing issues. After all, do you really want to move forward when life appears to be moving backwards?!:-)
Mercury is the mythological messenger of the gods. Whether delivering flowers for FTD, protecting the bankers at UBS, or presiding over U.S. commerce, Mercury is in motion.(1) When Mercury slows down its speed and appears to be moving backwards situations could arise that force us to slow down our speed too. Mercury is a changeable and dualistic energy that encourages us to be more adaptable and flexible and Mercury retrograde periods help get us up to speed in this department.
Since Mercury rules all forms of communication, the phenomenon of Mercury retrograde is routinely talked about in the media (listen to news anchors flub their lines and mispronounce things) and others who normally don’t observe planetary cycles. It’s not that communication glitches, travel snafus, and mechanical breakdowns don’t happen during the rest of the year but they tend to be experienced more intensely when Mercury is retrograde. This is why it’s better to hold off starting anything completely new until after Mercury turns direct April 23.(2)
The abbreviation for “retrograde” is Rx. Rather than making major decisions, starting new endeavors, and making major purchases, the remedy for the next three weeks is to engage in reflection and research. It’s time to rethink, review and revisit situations we’ve overlooked, rectify past errors, and reattempt to resolve issues that previously failed to reach fruition. Put the RE prefix in front of everything you do: reapply, reform, renegotiate, repair, revise, redo, reconnect, reinvent, retry, etc.
Since Mercury rules schedules, it’s a good idea to reconfirm all appointments and travel arrangements, allowing extra time to arrive at your destination. Scrutinize all data especially receipts and financial statements which could be more prone to errors. Avoid signing important documents during this time unless you’ve carefully reviewed them multiple times (even if vetted by an attorney). It is also best to postpone purchasing big ticket items and electronics unless necessary or making an exact replacement, especially items that Mercury rules such as motor vehicles, computers, phones, and portable electronic devices. Mercury retrograde also increases the potential for product recalls (which seems to have become a daily occurrence at Johnson & Johnson).
In a world of instant messaging obsessed with instant gratification, Mercury retrograde can be frustrating. This is especially true during this retrograde period as Mercury is in Aries, a sign ruled by impulsive and assertive Mars that wants to do everything as fast as possible. (Or to paraphrase William Shatner born with Mercury, the Sun and Uranus in Aries as Capt. James T. Kirk: “to boldly go where no one has gone before,” as Aries is all about doing something completely new and being the first to do so.)
Mercury in Aries likes to act first and think later (if there’s time) which can lead to communicating things that might be regretted later. Mercury together with the Sun, Jupiter and Uranus in Aries are joined by Aries’ planetary ruler Mars moving into Aries April 2, the day before the Aries New Moon. These energies accentuate the driving need to move ahead and the tendency to become easily irritated and angry when faced with obstacles and delays, especially with Mercury, the Sun and Jupiter opposing Saturn in relationship-oriented Libra.
The good news is that there’s plenty of actions you can take that can even be more beneficial when Mercury is retrograde.
Since Aries energy needs to constantly be in motion, keeping physically active provides a readily available outlet to constructively release any frustrations. There are many ways to fulfill Aries’ need to take action during Mercury retrograde as long as the action relates to something from the past. Past failures possess the potential to be reversed when Mercury is retrograde. (4) A few examples: Initiate contact with people and companies you had been in touch with in the past but didn’t get the job. Retake tests. Repair relationships and reconnect with people from the past. The time between the April 3 New Moon and the April 17 Full Moon is the optimum part of the retrograde cycle to take new action related to old issues. April 5 before 7:02 PM (EDT), April 12, and April 13 (before 3:58 PM) are favorable times.
As the first sign of the zodiac, Aries is focused on matters affecting oneself which is why Mercury retrograde in Aries is the time to re-evaluate personal priorities and goals and resolve old issues during the Aries New Moon cycle (April 3 – May 2).
Aries is the first sign in the fire element and this is the first time in six years since Mercury is retrograde in the fire element. Mercury retrograding in the fire element through 2012 is enthusiastic about revisiting creative pursuits and developing conceptual ideas.(3) Assisting in the creative process during this Mercury retrograde cycle is that the Moon in inventive Aquarius conjoined inspirational Neptune as Mercury turned retrograde. The Moon and Neptune combines instinct with intuition that can help to dissolve any perceived obstacles that might have been holding things back.
When it comes to finance and politics however, the Moon conjoining Neptune creates atmospheric conditions that can be confusing, murky, and downright deceptive. The combination of the Moon/Neptune and Mercury in Aries is ideologically driven to the extreme and focused on self-promotion rather than being pragmatic. The Moon and Neptune at the end of Aquarius as Mercury retrogrades in Aries the sign of new beginnings, further reinforces the theme that existing issues must be re-examined in a new light and resolved before embarking on completely new endeavors.
Looking at the chart erected for the U.S. when Mercury turned retrograde reflects that this will be an important time since Mercury-ruled Virgo is on the Ascendant (representing the nation’s outlook) and Gemini rules the sector representing the nation’s leadership and reputation on the global stage. Gemini reflects the Administration is dealing with a multitude of key issues. Trade agreements the Administration has been working on could be reached and/or signed around May 16.
Mercury is retrograde in the sector of the chart representing debt, death, taxes, insurance, and all forms of entitlements, indicating that along with employment (Virgo), these are the political issues on the nation’s mind now. The Sun conjoins expansive Jupiter in this sector which along with Mercury retrograde reflects an abundance of information will be revealed to the nation that begins exposing the real hypocrisy of Republican legislation (Mercury) focused on using government to benefit the wealthy, large corporations and socially ideological (all Sun/Jupiter themes) conservatives rather than high impact budget changes such as restructuring defense (Aries), Social Security, and Medicare in ways that eliminate profiteering by the wealthy and corporate interests.
These energies indicate the two political parties will reach agreement on funding the budget for the rest of the current fiscal year and agree to raise the debt ceiling. (If an agreement isn’t reached on funding the current budget by the April 8 midnight deadline and the government partially shuts down, an agreement could be reached around April 11/12.)
Mercury turns retrograde squaring the USA’s natal Mercury in Cancer which is located in this same sector of the USA’s birth chart which reflects America’s indebtedness, forcing action to be taken to avert a full blown debt crisis.(5)
In the USA chart, Mercury in Cancer opposes Pluto in Capricorn indicating that it is the plutocrats who exert the greatest influence on U.S. economic policies. This alignment has been much more influential since Pluto was discovered in 1930, reflecting that the message conveyed to the general public (Mercury in Cancer) is usually opposite the underlying agenda of big business interests who hold the greatest influence over the government (Pluto in Capricorn).
As I have previously described, the USA was born with Mercury retrograde which explains why the government is constantly tweaking the tax code and has a propensity for proposing/passing legislation when Mercury is retrograde.
Mercury retrograde periods can increase the potential for reversals in stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies. Reversal potential is highest when Mercury turns retrograde (March 30), when the planet ruling the sign Mercury is in (in this case Mars entering Aries April 2), or after the midpoint of the cycle when the Sun (speculation) conjoins Mercury (April 9). Planetary alignments involving Mercury occurring around the same time can also raise the potential for reversal. (Mercury conjoins Jupiter April 11, repeating an alignment that first occurred on March 15. What is said and/or announced now has the potential to create large market moves.) (6)
Another tendency when Mercury is retrograde is for markets to frequently reverse within the retrograde cycle lacking a clear sense of direction, ending the cycle close to the levels when Mercury went retrograde.
After the market’s wild ride when Mercury was retrograde in Libra (Aries’ opposite sign) in the midst of the financial crisis, Mercury retrograde in the earth element (2009-2010) defied the tendencies I’ve described as the major indices continued to climb, comforted by massive fiscal and monetary stimulus that pushed investors to take on more risk.
The Federal Reserve’s excessive policy accommodation has spawned so much speculation that it has caused commodity prices to spike along with inflation, reflected by so many planets in Aries at the New Moon which brings overheated conditions. The New Moon followed by Mercury conjoining expansive Jupiter increases inflation and expands the number of products/services where costs are being passed through. Mars conjoining Uranus brings the issue to a fever pitch.
Besides inflation overheating, the charts for Mercury retrograde and the Aries New Moon are interconnected as both reflect factors that could constrain the market from climbing much higher from its current level until after Mercury retrograde has passed. Additionally, Mercury retrograde conjoins natal Saturn of the founding of the New York Stock Exchange which is in opposition to natal Jupiter in Libra (a reversal of the current Jupiter/Saturn opposition).
The New Moon along with Jupiter and Mercury are in the sector representing Congress opposing Saturn (limitations) which rules the sector of the chart representing debt (and taxes, etc. previously described) with Saturn located in the sector representing the stock market. This could indicate the market is temporarily topping out and one of the factors could be the market is concerned about the uncertainty being stirred up in Congress (Aries rules the sector of Congress in the New Moon chart and Mars and Uranus conjoin this sector). The New Moon squares Pluto (whose energies are more pronounced now) further emphasizing Pluto’s themes of debt, mortgages, taxes, insurance, entitlements/subsidies, and nuclear issues.
Even if there’s no government shutdown and the debt ceiling gets raised without a big fight, Mercury retrograde is more likely to ensure that much of what the Republicans have proposed since taking control of the House in January is more likely to come under renewed scrutiny now which could start to worry Wall St. Reinforcing this likelihood is that the Aries New Moon squares the January 4 Capricorn Solar Eclipse and Mercury turns direct April 23 squaring the eclipse , reactivating issues and events that occurred at that time.
Corporate earnings season gets underway the week of April 10. Wall St. already has factored in that earnings will be good but inflation and disruptions to the supply chain resulting from the earthquake/tsunami in Japan are going to affect future earnings, especially in the tech and manufacturing sectors. Uranus ruling the sector of the New Moon chart representing imports together with Mars conjunct Uranus in the sector ruling corporate profits (the same sector that rules Congress) combined with Neptune conjoining and ruling the sector representing corporations indicates that the market could be disturbed by too much uncertainty. Many corporate leaders could say during earnings Q&A sessions that they are unable to project how much they will be affected by Japan.
The Mercury retrograde and Aries New Moon charts raise the potential for monetary policy tightening. As I wrote last November: “With Uranus in Aries squaring the Fed chart’s natal Pluto, Sun, and conjoining the sector of the chart representing its reputation between March 2011 and January 2012, the Fed is likely to face a few unexpected shockwaves. Among them could be a rebellion coming from within the Fed.”
Uranus (especially conjoined with Mars the planet of action) is a strong indicator of reversals and surprises, and Uranus exactly squares the Fed's Sun (self-identity; the Chairman) April 7. Several regional Fed bank presidents have expressed views in the last week that indicate their desire to begin the reversal of policy accommodation. The biggest surprise was St. Louis FRB president James Bullard (now a non-voting member) who pushed for QE2 and is now suggesting that the Fed should re-examine whether the program should end early. But with ever expansive Jupiter (Bernanke) and his two dovish cohorts, Janet Yellen and William “let them eat iPads” Dudley at the helm, their definition of policy tightening would simply mean that the Fed goes from expanding its balance sheet to maintaining the current level. (More on the Fed in an upcoming post.)
Mercury retrograde in Aries indicates the market could see that the situation in Japan is not nearly as bullish as Wall St. believes as Mercury was rising over Sendai when Mercury turned retrograde. Newspapers are ruled by Mercury; a combination of shredded newspapers, sawdust, and chemicals are the “innovative” materials being used to try to block the flow of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant from flowing into the ocean. Mars conjoining Uranus below the horizon at the New Moon raises the potential for an earthquake or major accident/explosion in Japan.
Other potential global hot spots continue to be Libya, Syria, Iran, and the Persian Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia as Mercury retrograde squares the kingdom’s Sun and Jupiter in Capricorn indicating that protests against the monarchy will resurge. Protests will continue or begin in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the U.A.E., Oman, and Yemen. Other potential hot spots include northeastern China, Koreas, Australia, and New Guinea.
Weather wise, Mercury retrograde and the planetary configuration at the New Moon can bring unusual and “freaky”/extreme weather conditions that are ripe for earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms. So many planets in Aries tend to bring dry and unseasonably warm temperatures together with sudden storms that plunge the mercury below normal due to the opposition to cold and severe Saturn. Unsettled weather conditions can increase accidents and the potential for power outages.
Upcoming Mercury Rx in 2011: Right at the end of summer vacation season, Mercury will retrograde August 2 at the beginning of Virgo (the sign Mercury rules on the day the Moon is in Virgo), retrograde back into Leo August 8 and turn direct August 26.
Mercury will retrograde on November 24 in Jupiter-ruled Sagittarius on Jupiter-ruled Thursday on the one day of the year we remember to give thanks for life’s many blessings (Thanksgiving Day). This is the day before the Sagittarius Solar Eclipse which is a “SuperMoon.” Mercury turns direct December 13 on the degree of the Solar Eclipse.
Mercury is the trickster and if the trickster can teach us one thing to learn from Mercury retrograde it is to be as flexible as Mercury and to have a sense of humor no matter what!
(1)The above image is called “Commerce” and is part of Constantino Brumidi’s 1865 fresco, “The Apotheosis of Washington” in the eye of the U.S. Capitol rotunda. Here Mercury is depicted handing a bag of money to Robert Morris, financier of the American Revolution.
The rod of Mercury’s caduceus represents power, the serpents symbolize wisdom, and the wings are for diligence. It is also used as a symbol of protection for merchants and thieves. Mercury’s caduceus is not to be confused with the rod of Asclepius which is associated with healing and the medical profession (the snake sheds its skin which represents rejuvenation).
(2)Although Mercury turns direct April 23, give Mercury a couple of days for to get in its groove again. It would be ideal to hold off on major new endeavors and purchases until after the Taurus New Moon. Wednesday, May 4 after 1:15 PM EDT would be the first opportune time to take advantage of the time of the lunar cycle representing new beginnings. Coincidentally (or maybe not!) Wednesdays are ruled by Mercury and the Moon just happens to be in Mercury-ruled Gemini.
(3)Mercury was last retrograde in Aries March 19 – April 12, 2005.
(4) And for those people who think they “got away” with doing something improper, Mercury retrograde could catch up with them!
(5) Foreign holders of U.S. debt have existed since France helped finance the War of Independence. The U.S. did default on its debt in January 1790 by deferring a portion of its interest payments for 10 years on debt accumulated from the Revolutionary War. (Source: “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly” by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff).
(6) The March 15 alignment was bearish. The third and final alignment of Mercury in Aries conjoining Jupiter on May 11 has the potential to be bullish.
William Shatner: March 22, 1931 4:00 AM EST Montreal, Canada USA: July 4, 1776 5:10 PM LMT Philadelphia, PA Aries New Moon: April 3, 2011 10:33 AM EDT Washington, DC New York Stock Exchange Founded: May 17, 1792 time unknown NYC