COMMENT: Russia's Year of the Pig

By bne IntelliNews February 21, 2007

Chris Weafer of Alfa Bank -

Sunday was Chinese New Year and the start of the year of the Pig in Chinese astrology. Prophetically, one can equate a translation of the main themes of this year with the last year of President Putin's term in office. It is the last in the recurring cycle of 12 animal years and, therefore, marks the end of an old cycle and preparation for a new beginning, with the most important period being mid-December to mid-January. That is of course the period when Russia will hold parliamentary elections, and Putin has promised to publicly lend his support to one of the candidates to replace him.

One of the chief characteristics of this year is that of "resignation of one's self," ie. acceptance that change is inevitable and that you have to adapt rather than fight it. The course can be influenced, but the fact of change cannot be altered and it's therefore futile to fight it. For those in the government who have been vocal in their criticisms of official policy, could this herald their resignations in the coming year?

Interestingly, one of the better interpretations of Chinese Astrology (before it became commercialized like popular newspaper horoscopes) also highlights as very important the direction of North to Northwest. That is, the direction from which new ideas will come. Sitting in Moscow, that is approximately the direction of St Petersburg. So, based on this interpretation, will the next president also come from that city?

For investors, the bad news is that the Year of the Pig is characterized by reckless and wasteful financial management. The interpretation says that, "unhappiness is a necessary expression in development." So after seven years when the stock market rose by almost 1,000%, could it be that this is a year for the unhappiness that will build the market's character?

To most people, this is just so much hocus-pocus... but if you're unsure, the market in derivatives, such as puts and calls on the RTS Index, is becoming very popular.

Chris Weafer is Chief Strategist at Alfa Bank

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