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Year of Rat set to see losses
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Chinese astrologer Tony Tan, a former broker at DBS Securities, made money for his clients in 2007 by telling them Asian equity markets would turn in "peak performances" in the Year of the Pig. He's predicting losses in the Year of the Mouse, which starts tomorrow.


"Just like a rat, investors will have to be nimble," said Singapore-based Tan, an astrologer since 1995 and founder of the Harmony Academy of Chinese Metaphysics. "It's going to be a highly competitive year."


Water creature


Chinese astrology, based on a mix of philosophy and astronomy dating back more than 3,000 years, has 12 animals that combine with five elements to define each year, making up a 60-year cycle. This year the Mouse, a "water" creature, combines with the "earth" cycle, another unstable combination according to Tan.


Stock markets are already falling. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped nine percent in January, its worst monthly performance since September 2001, after a 12-percent gain last year, Bloomberg News said.


Benchmarks in 11 of the region's 14 largest markets including Chinese mainland and Hong Kong and Singapore reached all-time highs in the Year of the Pig. MSCI's Asian index reached a record on November 1.


Tan expects markets to bottom out in April, a "dangerous" month for stocks because of clashing elements. Prices may rebound as the Year of the Mouse continues, without setting new highs, he said.


"The Year of the Pig was one of optimal strength," Tan said. "We're not going to see a repeat of those gains."


More bullish


More than 60 percent of 1,572 South Koreans surveyed recently said they had consulted an astrologer for the Lunar New Year or planned to do so, according to CareerNet Co, an online job-information provider in Seoul.


Some fortunetellers are more bullish than Tan. Malaysia-based Joey Yap, whose feng shui seminar in Kuala Lumpur last month drew a crowd of more than 3,000 participants, said there will be plenty of opportunities to profit this year.


"There's uncertainty, but there's also a lot of activity and growth," Yap said. Investors should buy shares of companies in the commodity-related, medical and transport industries, he said, citing their favorable elements in this lunar year.


Asia index falls


In the last Earth-Mouse Year between February 10, 1948, and January 28, 1949, China was divided by civil war and Japan was still recovering from its defeat in World War II. The MSCI Asia index fell 19 percent in the most recent Year of the Mouse, a "fire" year, between February 19, 1996 and February 6, 1997.


(Shanghai Daily February 7, 2008)


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