Since time immemorial, human beings have sought the help of soothsayers to get a glimpse of the future. But can these fortune tellers really tell us which way stock markets will move, or are they just dabbling in voodoo science? BT met three such clairvoyants to find out. All three claimed they could tell how stocks will perform - by reading the stars, cards, birth charts and so on.
SPECIAL: How experts predict stock markets trends
Rajiv Karekar, 49, is a general surgeon in Thane, near Mumbai. He has developed software that predicts the movements of the National Stock Exchange's Nifty index. Karekar says he can predict its intra-day movements with 80 per cent accuracy, and 85 per cent accuracy over the longer term of two to three months. The doctor, who spent six years developing this software, draws up predictive graphs of the Nifty for a week's five market days. These are popular among intra-day traders. Longer-term traders prefer his two-and three-month predictions.
"The best part of the graphs I offer is that there is nothing left for interpretation. Investors have a concrete graph based on which they can decide their trading strategy," says Karekar. The doctor-turned programmer-turned forecaster bases his graphs on birth charts of the Nifty and the country. The country's birth chart is based on the time and date that it gained independence, while the index's birth chart is based on the day and time that it started trading.
Hemmangi Kinwatkar, 38, is another who foretells stock movements. "I use a combination of numerology, Tarot cards and horoscopes while advising my clients on how to trade on the stock markets," she says.
|Hemmangi Kinwatkar's predictions|
- State Bank of India: Starting end-March its stock will rise over three to five weeks.
- Reliance Industries Ltd: Stock will be stable in the fi rst week of April and underperform in the second and third weeks. Good long-term investment.
- Ashriya International: Good long-term prospect.
Ajay Jain's predictions for Q1 of fi scal 2013
- Stocks: Sensex and Nifty will hit a 52-week high in May. High volatility in June. SBI, HPCL, Sintex Industries and Voltas will give 12-22 per cent return.
- Rupee: Will be around 48 to the dollar by June.
- Gold and Copper: Gold prices will rise fi ve to seven per cent. Copper will appreciate fi ve to 10 per cent
Jaipur-based Ajay Jain recommends stocks based on planetary movements. The retired lieutenant colonel bases his predictions on Medini Jyotisha, one of the sub-divisions of Vedic Jyotisha. This branch of astrology is used to predict events, natural calamities, and prices based on the horoscope of a region, such as a state or a country. "When I recommend a particular stock, I look at the promoter's birth chart, the company's birth chart and the company's counterparts' (rivals') birth charts," says Jain.
Ask the soothsayers how they draw their conclusions about the markets and a veil of secrecy descends. While fundamental analysts focus on financials, policy decisions, company/sector-wide developments and so on, these advisers base their predictions on birth charts and correlations between stock prices and planetary movements, among other things. For example, they believe well-placed planets tend to yield price increases. And that negative vibes from bad planets, such as a square (90 degree) aspect from Saturn, will push the share price down.
Some of the correlations are downright bizarre - the sun is said to govern the stock performance of public sector unit stocks; Venus is said to influence media and sugar stocks. Others are plain common sense with a fair sprinkling of astrology and soothsaying. "Companies that sell daily-use goods like toothpaste will never go out of business. Nor will service providers like banks. It is always a good idea to invest in them," says Kinwatkar.
For those who follow the soothsayers though, it is often just an extension of their belief. "When we make our biggest investment in life - marriage - with the help of astrology, it is only natural that we extend it to monetary investments," says an official with a large private sector bank, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The 40-year-old banker has been consulting Hemmangi for a year about personal and financial matters. "My portfolio consisted largely of auto scrips. She recommended that I add banks and go negative on petrochemical stocks."
Another investor, a pilot with an Indian airline, uses a mix of astrology and technical analysis before making an investment. "First I see what astrology has to say, then I look at the technical side and decide whether to delay my position or trade immediately," he says. He believes astrologers are generally right about market movements. "They may be off by a few points, but the timing of the fall or rise is accurate 95 out of 100 times," he says.
Investors relying on astrology to play the markets is not a new phenomenon. In the United States, W.D. Gann is supposed to have used astrology to forecast stock prices as far back as in the 1920s. Incidentally, one of the techniques he developed, Gann angles, is widely used by traders even today. Louise McWhirter, another astrologer, is said to have prepared a horoscope for the New York Stock Exchange in the 1930s. Grace Morris, also an astrologer, has been organising 'The World Conference of Astro Economics' since 1988. The meetings see like-minded 'astro economists' as they call themselves, discussing the impact of star alignments on stock markets and the economy.
More and more Indians are investing in the markets. About five per cent of Indian household savings - a little over Rs 45,000 crore in 2010, according to the Reserve Bank of India - go into stocks and bonds. And the number of people seeking investment tips based on astrology and other such belief systems is also on the rise. Kinwatkar says about a third of her clients seek stock market-related advice. Jain claims that corporates, banks and mutual funds are among his major clients. He charges anywhere between Rs 7,000 to Rs 7 lakh, depending on how personalised the service is.
Karekar says he is going slow promoting his Astro Stock Forecast software. He currently has 20 clients, mostly day traders, who have been buying his short-term and long-term graphs on a regular basis for the last six months or so. The astrologer charges between Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000 for them.
Considering that millions of Indians - from those about to plunge into matrimony to those seeking political office to those about to launch business projects - base their decisions on astrological forecasts, it perhaps is not surprising that investors, too, are doing the same. But is their advice sound? Perhaps only the stars can tell.