The new Chinese lunar year begins next Tuesday and, once again, fortunetellers in Asia are making predictions for the coming year. The Year of the Horse may be just as volatile as the Year of the Snake that is just ending.
The horse is the seventh symbol in the 12-symbol Chinese horoscope. Despite its size and power, the Chinese consider the horse a prey animal and vulnerable to danger.
Fortunately, horses have eyes on either side of their heads so that they can see danger approaching from any direction. And so, fortunetellers say, the Year of the Horse requires great caution, particularly in the first half of the year.
Historically, the Year of the Horse has been marked by natural and man-made disasters. In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake killed more than 500 people. An outbreak of the influenza epidemic in the next Horse Year 1918 killed more than two million people worldwide. Twelve years later in 1930, the Nazi Party came to power in Germany. In the most recent Horse Year, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Chinese horoscope experts say this Year of the Horse is dominated by the conflicting elements of water and fire. This means natural disasters, like floods, can be expected.
In Hong Kong Tuesday, research analysts at the investment bank CLSA Emerging Market were making their own predictions about the coming year.
After consulting Feng Shui masters Chinese experts on natural forces and creating harmony in the environment the analysts say they believe the economic recession gripping many industrial nations right now will continue without much relief.
For some countries, there is no good luck forecast for the Year of the Horse. CLSA predicts the war in the Middle East will escalate dangerously in the next few months with violent upheavals in leadership in that region and regions around it.
As for the United States, its war against terrorism will continue, but with only varying degrees of success as enemies prove elusive.
"Feng Shui says there will be more challenges this year," says CSLA's research analyst Kenneth Lau. "The Feng Shui master says the worst time in the Horse Year will be equally worse as that in the Snake Year. It is pretty scary."
Not all of the predictions are doom and gloom. CLSA says Japan's stock market will finally hit bottom and start to rise reversing an 11-year decline. Taiwan's links with China will improve resulting in direct flights between Shanghai and Taipei.
And China is boldly predicted to upset Brazil in the first round of the World Cup soccer tournament in the middle of this year. Portugal and Argentina will meet in the final with Argentina emerging victorious.