Steven Vines

Congratulations on your prosperity, but go cautiously in the Year of the Rat

Steven Vines on the City Life

Hong Kong’s underperforming Disneyland theme park has high hopes for the Chinese Year of the Rat, which arrived in boisterous style last week. As one of the few businesses heavily invested in rodent symbolism, the creators of Mickey Mouse are offering special discounts for the New Year period and have enlisted local pop stars to serenade the crowds.

This may help Disney reach its targets, but in the wider economy caution seems to be the watchword for the Rat year. Feng shui masters come into their own as the new year gives way to the old. They issue massive almanacs of predictions and dispense advice from temple stalls for fees that range from modest to truly impressive. Mostly people ask about their love lives, but on the business side of things there appears to be a consensus that the Year of the Rat will see the economy cool; investors are advised to be prudent. It will be a year dominated by the wood element — which is good for wood-related industries, such as paper makers, Chinese-medicine producers and textile manufacturers. It’s also pretty fine for agriculture, mining and the building industry, though unfortunately Hong Kong only has the last of these.

But personal fortunes in the Rat year are largely dependent on the year of your birth. So if you were born in 1924, 1936, 1948, and so on in a 12-year cycle, pay special attention. Feng shui master Gladys Mak Ling-ling expects good fortune for rats but they are advised to keep away from high-risk investments. I’m a tiger: for me, according to Ms Mak, there is no prospect of promotion in my career but I might do well to focus on long-term investments. Also, intriguingly, there is a strong hint of frequent travel overseas.

Those who believe that precedent is a pointer to the future will be interested to know that in 1996, the last Rat year, the Hong Kong stock market rose 18 per cent and in the Rat year before that, 1984, it was up 30 per cent.

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