"Obama will start going downhill this year. He will not be able to achieve much," said Peter So, one of Hong Kong's celebrity feng shui masters peering into the future as the Lunar New Year rolls around on Sunday.
Chinese fortune-tellers study the changing balance of the five elements they believe form the core of the universe -- metal, wood, water, fire, and soil -- and in the Chinese zodiac the tiger is seen as the mother of fire.
In feng shui, a person's element can be calculated by using the exact time and date of his birth. Obama, born in the summer of 1961, needed the support of water and did not go well with fire, So said.
"Unfortunately, there is too much fire and no water for Obama this year."
He predicted that already strained Sino-US relations would deteriorate further in the second half of 2010, with Obama's good fortune running out.
Other leaders could also be in for a hard time, according to their place in the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese Zodiac -- Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
Monkey is the least favourable animal sign this year as it is in a direct clash with the tiger, according to the soothsayers.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was born on the Day of the Monkey in the Year of the Monkey, is expected to experience a particularly rough 2010, Raymond Lo, a Hong Kong feng shui expert, told AFP.
Others born in the Year of the Monkey include Akio Toyoda, chief of troubled Japanese auto giant Toyota, and Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang, who has been dogged by growing public discontent.
The tiger's link to fire could also be a warning of renewed nuclear threats from rogue regimes such North Korea and from terrorists, Lo said.
Adding to the possibility of troubled times is the fact that metal is the dominant element this year.
"Unfortunately, this means the year 2010 will not be peaceful as there will be lots of international conflicts," Lo said.
Each element is further divided into the yin and the yang strands, the two complementary qualities representing nature's passive and active side.
Lo said that metal this year belongs to the yang strand and is a symbol of loyalty to friends and justice.
"However, these seemingly positive qualities can be destructive to international relations as state leaders may take sides and make military alliances."
But the disputes were unlikely to result in violence, he said.
On the positive side, fire symbolises the driving force of the economy and lifts hopes that a long-term recovery will be in sight, feng shui masters said.
"Fire stands for optimism and a speculative mentality, which means that there will be lots of activities in the stock market this year," said Lo.
"We've got to remember that the financial crisis was triggered by the absence of fire and prevalence of water, which symbolises fear."
Feng shui master Alion Yeo predicted that stock markets in Hong Kong and China would be up at the beginning of the year.
"But it will experience significant fluctuations around August before the market rebounds for a sustainable recovery towards the end of the year," he said.
The experts believe that the Year of the Tiger will also be favourable to industries connected to metal, such as banking, machinery, high tech, and cars.
While they had varied predictions on what sort of natural disasters the world will see in a year dominated by metal and fire they all agreed on one thing -- an abundance of traffic accidents.
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