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What’s in store in the Year of the Ox?

The Lunar New Year is upon us. Something to look forward to, or should we just be relieved the old year is past?

On February 12, we will put the Year of the Rat behind us. In what is probably the most widely celebrated festival on the planet, the incoming Year of the Ox will most likely be celebrated more with a sense of relief that a truly traumatic year is finally past rather than toasting the virtues of the incoming Ox. In looking to the future, one needs to reflect on the past and most predictions of how these past 12 months would play out were pretty wide of the mark. As the British economist Roger Bootle recently remarked in his newspaper column, “Last year’s appalling events should serve as a warning to people like me to be ultra-modest and to people like you to be ultra-sceptical.”

So how did last year’s Feng Shui forecasts turn out? Half way through the year, it looked like Splash Extra’s Feng Shui master had got things pretty much spot on with his prediction that there was no good news for the shipping sector and hard times lay ahead. With the BDI hitting its year low in mid May and the container sector grappling with Covid-induced problems at the time, it looked like the dire predictions were coming true. As the Year of the Rat ends, container rates are at an all-time high and the dry bulk market is looking distinctly buoyant, so perhaps our expert had relatively short-term vision.

The Ox signifies hard work, positivity and honesty

What can we look forward to (or fear) in the Year of the Ox? After the turbulence of this past year, it is worth noting that the Ox signifies hard work, positivity and honesty. Oxen are grounded, loyal, gentle and trustworthy. All laudable characteristics and perhaps more in tune with these times than the Rat, who whilst being known to be charming and quick-witted is also stubborn, greedy, devious and too eager for power (for the sake of clarity, the immediate past president of the US is a Fire Dog, known for being confident, feisty and wanting to preserve their reputation, his successor is a Horse, known to be more easy going and sincere).

So whilst the basic principles seem to be in place for a less turbulent year, a straw poll amongst some of Asia’s leading astrologers suggests it’s not all going to be plain sailing. Almost without exception, they forecast that Covid will be a disrupter for at least the first half of the year (don’t we all think that already?) and some are not seeing any upturn until 2022. Increasing wealth is not nearly as prominent in forecasts for the year ahead as it usually is, but one astrologer points to sectors which have the presence of metal and water as being likely to boom and noted tourism, transport and finance as falling into this class. A possible resurgence for the hard hit cruiseship sector, a strong year for shipping and a resurgence of ship finance deals? If it happens, remember where you read it first.

In keeping with the Ox’s characteristics of hard work, the most auspicious time to return to work after the Lunar New Year holidays is February 15- a public holiday in Hong Kong, so expect many people to adhere to this with just a peek at their emails rather than forsake a precious full day off. Sticking with the theme of hard work, let’s all hope that this is a better year ahead for a group of people who had to work harder last year than almost anyone, our seafarers. An end to the quarantine issues and crew change delays that have blighted our industry since this pandemic erupted would be the best gift the Ox could bring. Wishing all our readers Kung Hei Fat Choi!

This column first appeared in the January issue of Splash Extra. Subscription details of shipping’s essential monthly markets publication are available here.

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