Continuing our tradition of listing what according to Zero Hedge readers were the key news events of the year for the third year in a row (2009 and 2010 can be found here and here), we present, as is now customary, the most popular posts of the year as determined by the number of page views, or said otherwise - by the readers themselves. So without further ado, here are this year's top 20.
- In 20th place, with 70,324 reads, and confirming that in addition to all the vast changes in the financial arena (recall that the downgrade of the US was the straw that broke the camel's back and literally broke the market as well), 2011 was a year of vast geopolitical tensions, fears and overhauls, we have "Aircraft Carrier CVN-77 Parks Next Door To Syria Just As US Urges Americans To Leave Country "Immediately"." Needless to say, Syria will most likely be the unofficial conduit to a military escalation involving Iran. Unless of course the foreplay is skipped and the US military industrial complex skips right to the main course.
- In 19th place, with over 71,000 reads, we brought to our readers' attention that in addition to being the year of outright denial, there were glimmers of acceptance that the status quo is failing and no matter what, a new regime will be needed... but only after a "global financial apocalypse takes place" - behold: "Step Aside BBC "Trader": Head Of UniCredit Securities Predicts Imminent End Of The Eurozone And A Global Financial Apocalypse."
- If there was one person of the year award, it likely would have to go to Kyle Bass, who at 18th place with 72.5k reads have our readers "Some words of advice." It is not that Bass discovered something huge or ground-shattering in 2011 - to the contrary - he continued his slow, steadfast unraveling of the broken system, and unlike other flip-floppers stuck to his story. He was proven right in many ways in 2011. Will he be proven even more right in 2012, with a collapse of Japan to follow that of Europe? Stay tuned and find out.
- The 17th most popular post, with over 73,000 reads came from an unsuspecting source, the BBC, which continued the theme of unexpected confessions from the strangest of sources, when an IMF advisors said that "In The Absence Of A Credible Plan We Will Have A Global Financial Meltdown In Two To Three Weeks." No credible plan was found, and the meltdown was delayed yet again, courtesy of last minute global bailout measures by the Fed, although the half lives of such interventions are getting shorter and shorter. How long will the next such bailout persist? Or that one after?
- The hacker group anonymous achieved its fair share of notoriety in 2011, as the 16th most popular post of 2011 indicates, with just under 74,000 reads, most recently by hacking the server of Stratfor and exposing the personal information of all of its tens of thousands of clients. However, it first came to the scene earlier in the year, when it released a clip threatening it would "Brings Peaceful Revolution To America: Will Engage In Civil Disobedience Until Bernanke Steps Down." Bernanke did not step down, nor was civil disobedience unleashed, and many of the bombastic calls fell well short, although for Anonymous to truly make an impression on the public it likely will have to step up its game in 2012. Surely a hacked FRBNY email account or two would bring the group new heights in notoriety.
- At 15th place we get another appearance by Kyle Bass, even if indirect this time, whose suggestion that The University of Texas take delivery of $1 billion in physical gold, was followed through, and resulted in a post with 74,500 reads. Oddly enough, Bass' advice reverberated in Latin America, where Venezuela's Hugo Chavez did the same by demanding the country's physical gold be shipped back to the country from the London cartel. It begs the question - just how much unrehypothecated gold is out there?
- In 14th place, the always colorful, unabashed and very much outspoken Euroskeptic Nigel Farrage, and Herman van Rompuy nemesis generated 80,000 reads and came one step closer to being proven correct when months ahead of the Euro's 10 year anniversary, he basically confirmed that the Euro is a dead currency. Judging by the record number of EUR shorts in the last week of 2011, at least the speculators out there agree with him.
- In number 13, with 83,500 reads, the broad population proved it was starved for fair and objective coverage of the first truly important event in the Arab Spring when the Egyptian system was toppling, as the dominoes of discontent, with or without the boots on the ground, were starting to drop, first in Tunisia, then Egypt, then Libya. Is Syria next? And if so, what about Iran? One thing is certain - the geopolitical space will be quite hot in 2012 as well, the main question remains: when will the Arab Spring become a European season?
- Number 12 reminded us that while one of the main events of 2010, the BP oil spill in the GOM, may have been plugged, the fears remain after it was reported that "Possible New Oil Spill 100 By 10 Miles Reported in Gulf Of Mexico." That nearly 85,000 people were concerned enough to click on this post confirms that when it comes to offshore drilling in the US, nothing has been resolved.
- At number 11 Jim Rogers proved his predictive acumen, when the former Soros partner warned the public days before siver hit $50 per ounce when he commented "On Triple Digit Silver And Issues Warning: "Parabolic Moves Always Collapse." Hopefully the 83,300 people who read the post took heed and booked profits. On the other hand, with central banks only starting to really loosen monetary policy and print in the end of 2011 (the ECB along expanding its balance sheet in 6 months more than the Fed did in all of QE1), it is guaranteed that Rogers' warning will be repeated at least once again in 2012.
- Number 10 showed us two things: that things are never what they seem on the surface, and that the conventional media is a joke and a conflicted farce, better suited for comedy than distributing the news when "Former CIA Analyst Tells Truth About Libya Intervention On CNN, Hilarity Ensues." Nearly 87,000 readers took great delight to watch the unmasking of the Mainstream Media's stupidity and bias.
- At number 9 was the news following the aftermath of the MF Global debacle, that instead of making liquidity more valuable, the CME decided to double down, and allow the same form of liquidity largesse that took down Corzine's house of rehypothecated cards, to be burden-shared by its own clients who had to endure the lowering of initial margins on all trades. That the CME left some first year clerk to draft the press release which simply said that that Initial and Maintenance margin would be the same, only to have to re-issue a PR the next day when it became completely unclear just what the CME's goals were- capital preservation or taking even more systemic risk -was just the cherry on top. This is what 93,000 readers discovered when they read "CME Goes To Collateral DefCon 1: Makes Maintenance Margin Equal To Initial For... Everything!?"
- Wikileaks proved to be a bust in 2011, when it released virtually nothing actionable, although those who sifted through its archives, including the 94,000 or so others who joined in when the discovery went viral, found some pearls such as this one which disclosed "The Reason(s) Behind China's Shadow Gold Buying Spree" It was also the 8th most read item on Zero Hedge in 2011.
- Next, we are reminded that more than anything, the biggest ongoing event of 2011 was the slow, methodological and relentless collapse of Europe. Only instead of the usual bullshit headlines and rumors, the reason why "Europe According To..." was the 7th most popular post, is that it took the same bias and prejudice that will never allow Europe to be the same integrated NWO globalist dream that the US melting pot has become, and flipped it on its head, exposing the sheer humor at the stupidity of it all.
- If there is anything unique about 2011 (and as everyone knows by now, from market terms it is as if 2011 never happened), it is that it ushered some very unwitting people on the stage of global opinion, such as Ann Barnhardt of Barnhardt Capital Management. The 6th most read post of the year with over 101k reads was Ann Barnhardt, quite a colorful character on a normal day, saying that "The Entire System Has Been Utterly Destroyed By The MF Global Collapse." And while some may have taken her admonition for nothing more than a extremist joke, Banrhardt's warning that all modern capital markets are a scam is absolutely valid. Expect many more MF Global-type collapses in the future to merely validate her argument which caused Barnhardt to close down her own brokerage.
- In 5th spot, we once again go back to Europe, this time by way of UBS, which took the art of Mutual Assured Destruction to a whole new level "Bring Out Your Dead - UBS Quantifies Costs Of Euro Break Up, Warns Of Collapse Of Banking System And Civil War." While the final outcome of Europe is certain, what UBS did is squarely put a bulls eye on its own back, confirming that should the MF Global trade, namely betting the ranch on global moral hazard, fail, and a Eurozone break ups follows, UBS will likely be the first bank to be shorted to death by the global vigilante squad which forgives any central bank insanity, but never forgets.
- In 4th place was the resurgence of the topic of shadow banking, aka the $20+ trillion unregulated funding system, read synthetic uncollateralized leverage, which as we have been warning for two years, is the true cause of fear at the heart of modern capital markets. MF Global's unwind exposed two things: the rampant use of off-balance sheet vehicles known as repos (entirely unregulated), and the fact that any bank which wishes to commit fraud would simply go to the UK and do anything and everything perfectly legally courtesy of absolutely no oversight, until everything collapses in a smoldering heap. Zero Hedge also brought to the vernacular two other terms: rehypothecation, and its bigger bother, hyper rehypothecation. To find out why shadow banking will likely be the financial topic of 2012 read, together with 105,000 others, "Why The UK Trail Of The MF Global Collapse May Have "Apocalyptic" Consequences For The Eurozone, Canadian Banks, Jefferies And Everyone Else"
- Third place goes to "China Proposes To Cut Two Thirds Of Its $3 Trillion In USD Holdings" which with 109,000 reads, shows that when it comes to the Nash Equilibrium between China and the US, the balance is always very tenuous. Whether or not China will indeed proceed and dump US paper, knowing full well it would likely be committing an act of self-destruction in the process, is unclear. We do know that China recently did in fact dump US Treasurys, and we also know that as Zero Hedge reported, in the past month foreigners sold a record amount of US paper. And without incremental demand for US paper from abroad, it only leaves the US, i.e., the Federal Reserve-Primary Dealer system left to monetize America's debt. Certainly QE X will be a topic of great debate and discussion in the coming year, if for no other reason than the US needs to fund another $1.2 trillion in deficit spending. And if there is nobody else willing to buy 10 Year US paper at 1.84%, Ben Bernanke will have no choice but to step in.
- The first runner up for most popular post of 2011, with 140,000 reads, was the announcement that "Trading Of Over The Counter Gold And Silver To Be Illegal Beginning July 15" - while the argument given by the official entities was that this is to protect investors from predator brokers, many saw into this yet another attempt of capital controls, and a further limitation of how, where and why one can trade their precious metals. And while executive order 6102: "the return" it was not, at least not yet, once the year end hedge fund liquidation phase ends, and PMs resume their surge ever higher, we would certainy not put it beyond our leaders to be forced to eventually confiscate all the freely held gold and silver in circulation. It has been done before; it will be done again.
- And our most popular post of the year, with 148,000 reads, was "BBC Speechless As Trader Tells Truth: "The Collapse Is Coming...And Goldman Rules The World" in which Zero Hedge brought FX trader, who contrary to attempts of discrediting, was not a member of some comedy troupe, Alessio Rastani 15 minutes of fame for no other reason than, in a few short paragraphs, daring to explain all the ways in which the system is broken, where it is headed, and who stands to profit from it all.
Unfortunately the trend from 2009 to 2010 and now, to 2011, is quite obvious: the world is getting ever more insolvent, only this time instead of banks, entire countries are or will soon file for bankruptcy. Which means that taxpayers of the other solvent countries will be on the hook to bail out the transgressors, until finally only one country is left standing. In the meantime any and all diversion tactics will be used to redirect attention from where it deserves to be: the increasingly more disastrous condition of the Welfare State/Banker Oligarchy status quo, and the inevitable warfare to follow: first currency, then trade, then all out.
While we will not predict what happens to the market in 2012 one thing is certain: the main topics discussed in the past three years will continue to dominate the airwaves and things will get far worse before they get better. As a result, five things that we believe will happen almost without a shadow of a doubt: volatility in 2012 will break all records, retail investors will continue to leave markets in droves, correlations will remain at all time highs, politicians will suckle more than ever at the Wall Street teat knowing well the party is soon ending, and lastly, central planning will hit unseen levels. Everything else is noise and soundbites.
It is on this rather grim background that we wish all our readers the best of luck and success in 2012. The final prediction for the new year we will make with 100% certainty is that Zero Hedge will be there each and every day helping readers expose the fallacies, fiction and fraud that the system is reduced to (ab)using each and every day just to kick the can down the road for a few more hours.