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Seminar Notes: investing with the stars

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When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter is aligned with Mars, go long oats and sell gold and stocks.

The mystic, mantic influence of the new age has reached the pits of Chicago's commodities exchanges, where a growing group of traders and brokers are charting the movements of Venus, Mars, and Saturn along with the prices of pork bellies, cocoa, foreign currencies, and grains.

Bradley Wood, a broker at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, is in all outward ways a typical yuppie: tall, fair of face, clad in a button-down shirt and loafers. Yet a copy of Jim Maynard's Pocket Astrologer lies open next to his constantly ringing phone, and on the wall behind his desk hangs a moon-phase calendar.

"I hate to use the word 'astrological,'" Wood said. "It's not a bunch of hocus-pocus and were not wearing long robes and pointy hats. It's just that everything in life works in cycles. It's as simple as the sun coming up and going down: we know exactly when it will do that because of math. On my charts, price trends match planetary movements, coincidentally or not. It's just another technical tool, like having another golf club in your bag."

Wood said he started watching the planets because his clients were doing it. About a third of his clients were using astrology before they came to him, he said. Practitioners divine market changes by using mathematical calculations based on planetary movements.

A small but growing band of financial astrologers are selling advice personally, on tape, in newsletters, in books, and on hotlines. Five who are billed as "world famous"--Larry Pesavento, Victoria Martin, Norman Winski, Bill Meridian, and Jim Schlidgen--will hold a seminar this weekend at the Ambassador West.

Larry Pesavento charts the movements of the planets from an office in Pismo Beach, California. He trades for his own account and claims he is right on the money three times out of four. He also sells advice on a hotline, and his book, Astrocycles: The Trader's Viewpoint, sells for $95 a copy.

Pesavento estimated that about a thousand traders and brokers around the nation use astrology regularly in their financial decision making. But interest is growing. "The age of Aquarius started in August 1987 with the harmonic convergence," said Pesavento, an Indiana native who began his career with Drexel Burnham Lambert in the 1970s. "That has meant more awareness of spirituality. You can't believe the number of heads of large banks and brokerage firms who are willing to sit down and talk about it."

Pesavento learned about financial astrology while at Drexel, when a client came in and started buying silver based on moon phases. "She was right 19 times in a row and that piqued my interest," Pesavento said. In 1985 he began using it himself.

Chicagoan Norman Winski is another Indiana native practicing financial astrology. He bills himself as an "astro-cyclical consultant" and sells a monthly newsletter called Astro-Trend, along with a set of books and software that incorporates astrology. Winski runs a consulting business for traders and brokers and he has traded for himself using astrology for 13 years.

Winski and other astro traders trade on the assumption that certain markets are ruled by certain astrological signs. Some of them are obvious, he said. "The sign of Taurus rules the cattle pit, so anything affecting the sign of Taurus affects the cattle market. Silver is ruled by the moon. The sign of Virgo affects the grains."

Winski treats his arcane practice as a high-tech science and scoffs at those who call it superstition. "That's just an opinion," Winski said. "I give them a quote from Isaac Newton, who believed in astrology. When he was laughed at, he said, 'I have studied the subject, they have not.'" Recently, Winski said, he made a killing in the coffee market by watching the planets Saturn and Uranus.

Winski and the other financial astrologers say the growing interest by traders in astrology isn't only a result of the harmonic convergence, but has to do with the stock crash of 1987, which, they all point out, was foretold in the stars. "When there is uncertainty, people look for new answers," Winski said.

Fort Lauderdale financial astrologer Jeanne Long--who trades gold based on the movements of the sun and the planet Neptune--agreed. "After 1929, everything people had used in the past didn't seem to work. That's when W.D. Gann [the father of financial astrology] came on strong." In January Long published a financial astrology almanac.

The biggest traders using astrology are extremely shy about letting their method be known. One broker at the Merc said, "You'd be amazed at the people who are using it. There are some heavy hitters behind the scenes" doing stargazing.

"There are many people who do this who won't let you know," Long said. "We hear from floor traders that it's amazing the number of people who are carrying around astrologcal things now."

Said Winski: "Ten years ago, I could have counted the number of people doing this on two hands. Now it's in the thousands."

A Chicago astrologer and psychic who asked not to be named for fear of the effect publicity would have on her telepathic powers said she has 20 current trader subscribers who pay $50 a month for financial astrology. "A client told me people talk about it all the time now," she said. "In the cafes, in the locker room, people are talking about an upcoming eclipse and how that will affect the markets." Her computerized astrological charts tell traders down to the minute when they will be "hot," she said. The method works as well in Las Vegas as in the pits. She claims one of her clients made $600 on a slot machine in a matter of minutes after a phone call from her.

In the commodities markets, where fortunes are made and lost in minutes, often for no explicable reason, trading methods vary. Anything that seems to work one day, from a rabbit's foot to a sophisticated software system, can become a trusted method the next day.

"Some people say, I don't want to know about it, but as long as it works, it's OK," said Merc trader Carolyn Boroden, a recent convert to financial astrology. "Others say, whaddaya, kidding? And others just watch it for a while, and when they see that it works, they start doing it."

The financial astrology teaching seminar will be held this weekend, 8:30 to 5:30 Saturday and Sunday, at the Ambassador West Hotel, 1300 N. State. Reservations and information are available from Lucy at 332-4738. The cost of the seminar is $595.

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