You laughed. You snickered. Some of you even sneered. You thought the first annual Times Board of Psychics was some kind of joke.
But consider the results. In this space last year, at a time when it was in no way a sure thing, the board unanimously predicted that America would go to war with Iraq.
The psychics were almost unanimous as well that unemployment would rise. The psychics were down on real estate--another bull's-eye--and were eerily accurate on some other events as well.
For example, Claudette Runyan, a Manhattan Beach psychic, looked ahead and saw the word "consolidate" in connection with Bank of America, which later announced a merger with Security Pacific.
Lori King, a desert psychic out near Tehachapi, predicted that "secret agreements come to light between Saudi Arabia and our failing banking systems this spring and summer." That sure sounds like the scandal surrounding Bank of Credit & Commerce International.
OK, OK, I'm skipping all the stuff that didn't come true. The seers saw no clear trend in the stock market, for example, which turned out sharply higher on the year. But why dwell on mistakes? Psychics are only human.
Besides, to guard against errant prognosticating, we've installed more safeguards. This year we've managed to broaden the board to include psychics from all over California--without relaxing our rigorous standards, which limit selection to those who advertise in the Yellow Pages or someplace. And as usual, we attempted to corroborate the panel's findings with astrologers.
Bolstered by their initial success, our psychics recently set to work again to bring readers crucial financial news of the future.
Interestingly, the board was almost unanimous this year on two matters of great interest to business.
First, all the psychics agreed that George Bush will be reelected, although several predicted a narrow victory. Elaine Sherman of Encino said the President would be "a shoo-in" unless Mario Cuomo ran against him. "Cuomo probably won't run," she added, days before the New York governor announced that indeed he would not.
With remarkable intellectual consistency, given what the markets might be expected to do when a Republican incumbent wins, all but one of the psychics predicted that stocks will rise during 1992.
Of course, the psychics weren't \o7 too \f7 consistent. They were evenly divided on the course of interest rates next year--odd for a group that sees a rising stock market--and they were largely pessimistic about the employment picture, in most cases predicting higher joblessness--something not often associated with rising share prices.
Lori King was especially pessimistic. Asked if she saw a depression coming, she said: "What do you mean, coming?"
The psychics were moderately negative about real estate for the coming year. Half predicted higher prices by next January, but Randal Bradford, a Marina del Rey psychic and licensed real estate broker, said residential realty will be down nationally and off slightly locally. He said industrial property will also be down, but commercial property should bounce back a bit.
The astrologers, by contrast, weren't too strong on stocks. Two of three I talked to see 1991 as a bad year on Wall Street.
Larry Pesavento, who publishes a markets newsletter called Astro-Cycles from Pismo Beach, Calif., said stocks will fall and interest rates will rise. (Pesavento was bearish on 1991, wrongly predicting that stocks would finish quite a bit lower.)
On the other hand, Paul Farrell, an astrology-oriented financial consultant, is an optimist.
"With the opposition of Jupiter and Saturn a few months ago, we hit the bottom of a key 20-year business cycle," he writes. "Get out of that recession-thinking rut. This new economic cycle is climbing to a peak in 2000. \o7 Ride the wave!"\f7
What else? "There is a major alignment occurring in the sky right now that only occurs every 171 years," said Georgia Stathis, a Pleasant Hill, Calif., astrologer and business adviser. She said this rare alignment of Uranus and Neptune results in "a major community or global theme," accounting for increasing internationalization of business in the year ahead.
Further, she said, "Saturn, which represents restriction, is in the sign of Aquarius, which rules the computer industry, the media industry, the airline industry . . . " That means more hard times in those businesses, according to Stathis, who said the silver lining is that those industries will be forced to change for the better.
In general, though, the board wasn't too optimistic. Veronica German, an Oakland psychic, sees increasing problems in the nation's banking system. And Sherman sees even more tough economic times in 1992.
So when might we expect an upturn?
Averi Torres of Malibu expects signs of recovery in the second half, but she was among the more optimistic psychics. Others said a true recovery might not be seen for awhile.
"It's going to take a long time," Sherman said.