For the fourth year in a row we continue our tradition of summarizing what you, our readers, found to be the most relevant, exciting, and actionable news of the year, determined simply by the number of page views. Those first eager for a brief stroll down memory lane of prior years can do so at their leisure, by going back in time to where the top articles of 2009, 2010 and 2011 are recapped. With that out of the way, here is what readers found to be the most popular posts of the past 365 days.
- In 25th spot, with 75,123 reads was the news that extending on the "all in" effort of propping up the stock market pyramid scheme, none other than central banks would openly (as opposed to covertly) get in on the action, with "Next Leg Of The Ponzi Revealed - Foreign Central Banks To Begin Buying US Stocks Outright Starting Today", in which we found that the Bank of Israel would commence buying various US stock ETFs and such stocks as Apple (on which investment it is now deeply underwater). What is most disturbing is that the BOI clarified it would invest up to 10% of its reserves. Meaning any major drop in the global stock market and the Fed would have yet another bank to add to its bail out roster.
- The 24th most popular post, with 75,826 reads was our visual summary "Postcards From A Furious China", showing what happens when hundreds of years of simmering xenophobia and hatred between the Chinese and Japanese cultures bubble to the surface and erupt in an uncontrolled conflagration, in this case catalyzed by something as meaningless as a barren rock in the South China seas. The impact of the escalation in nationalistic tensions has taken a massive toll on Japan, whose exports have collapsed and where not even the dramatic plunge in the Japanese Yen will do much if the same new nationalistic government can't moderate the revulsion Chinese businesses feel toward Japanese imports.
- In 23rd spot, with 76,032 reads, was the update from the world of gold counterfeiting, with "Tungsten-Filled 1 Kilo Gold Bar Found In The UK." Perhaps the most surprising thing about this is that people were actually surprised that "there is counterfeiting going on here." Or perhaps it was merely the validation of what everyone had already known. This would only be reconfirmed with...
- "Gold Counterfeiting Goes Viral: 10 Tungsten-Filled Gold Bars Are Discovered In Manhattan" - the 22nd most popular post of 2012, which as expected, would rekindle fears about pervasive gold counterfeiting as tungsten hit the mecca of the gold retail world, not in one isolated case, but in an epidemic of golden falsification.
- The 21st most read post with 77,223 clicks, had nothing to do with gold, and everything to do with the voodoo "science" of economics, and our Keynesian (sur)reality captured by "The Top 15 Economic 'Truth' Documentaries", explaining how the world we live in is nothing but one gross lie perpetuated by a status quo well aware that this is the only system that allows it to steal from the poor and give to the wealthy under the guise of inflation, and one in which debt slaves pursuing materialistic bliss are happily born and reborn, making their monetary masters wealthier with every passing generation.
- In 20th spot with 77,774 reads, was a stunning visual satellite photo side by side comparison of the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy, titled simply enough "Hurricane Sandy Satellite Photos: Before And After" which needs no further commentary: what will soon be quantified as the most expensive storm in US history certainly "earned" its title.
- In 19th spot is one of our personal favorites, a summary of "Dr. Michael "The Big Short" Burry's "Brutal Hangover Is Inevitable" State-Of-The-World UCLA Commencement Speech" - the man who clearly saw the bust of both the housing and credit bubbles, now warns about the bubble of central planning. And just like last time, he will be ignored until long after his warnings have come true.
- The 18th most read post of 2012, with over 83,000 surprising reads, was our very technical and highly detailed walk through of how to trade sovereign bonds in a world in which such complex concepts as relative covenant protection strength, pari passu clauses, Change of Control covenants, local vs foreign law indentures, and many other previously unheard of terms would determine which bonds to buy, and which to sell in post-Greek restructuring world with "Subordination 101: A Walk Thru For Sovereign Bond Markets In A Post-Greek Default World." With Spain's, and then Italy's untenable debt load on deck next for a massive bond restructuring, this post is as relevant now as it was back in January.
- In 17th spot, the seemingly ubiquitous tungsten makes another very unsurprising appearance with "Tungsten-Filled 10 Oz Gold Bar Found In The Middle Of Manhattan's Jewelry District." While stories of fake gold in broad circulation will only pop up with increasing frequency in the coming years, we look forward to 2013's first confirmed and undisputed sighting of fake gold in the possession of none other than a central bank, and expect that to be the most anticlimatic, yet most read, article of 2013.
- Holding the 16th spot, with 87,101 reads, or in this case views, was the one picture summary of the true state of Greece presented in "Must See: Greece Explained In One Picture." For those still unsure why there is no hope that Greece will ever get its financial house in order, this one simple photograph of its financial house should explain it all.
- Moving to the Top 15 is yet another confirmation when it comes to shopping and liquidation discounts, your average American (buying on credit no less), is no better than a typical caveman. With over 88,500 views, "Thong-Hungry Throng Of Teenage Girls Crash Victoria's Secret" do as the title implies, and take full advantage of firesales during the profit margin destroying Thanksgiving shopping season, which like last year, and the year before, proved to be an epic dud and crashed expectations for a consumer renaissance once more.
- In 14th spot, with some 90,000 reads, "Postcards From An Underwater New York" was a confirmation that yes, it can happen here: readers watched with disbelief as New York's financial district suddenly and inexplicable found itself under 15 feet of water, causing billions in damage, and sending the city that never sleep to a grinding halt.
- The 13th most popular post reminds us just what the biggest media circus for public consumption of 2012 was: the presidential election, where a key part of assuring the success of the incumbent was the battery of ridiculously strong economic reports, subsequently all revised far lower, in the days and weeks leading to the November election. In "Data Massaging Continues: Initial Claims Tumble To 339K Lowest Since 2008, Far Below Lowest Expectation" the October headlines were there merely to spoon-feed the masses; one look beneath the headlines, however, proved that as in every other banana republic, the US was no better off. However, all is fair in pre-election campaigns and data fudging, and the BLS would certainly not be held accountable.
- Kyle Bass is no stranger to these pages, and sure enough, his report on why "Fallacies Such As MMT Are "Leading The Sheep To Slaughter" And "We Believe War Is Inevitable" which was one of the most coherent, comprehensive summaries of what the world can look forward to (or not as the case may be) in the future, was not surprisingly the 12th most read article of the year with 94,537 reads. To measure the true penetration of his insight, however, one also needs to add the 470,000 reads his November 15 letter got on Scribd. For a relatively dry, deeply financial analysis, this is a record of how penetrating simple truth can be with the broader population, which also explains why every member of the mainstream media hates Bass with a passion.
- While 2012 was a year in which central planning gained ever more power across the world, one of the biggest losers of the year was unionized labor, which vastly overestimated its powers in the liquidation of the Twinkie maker Hostess, leaving thousands of people without a job just before Thanksgiving. But that blow was nowhere near as severe as the Michigan governor signing the "right to work" proposal into law, taking away even more power from the once all-powerful unions. The aftermath was almost predictable when "Jimmy Hoffa Warned Of "Civil War" As Michigan Governor Signs "Right-To-Work" Into Law" which was the 11th most read post of 2012 with 96,000 reads. Expect more threats (and acts) of violence from America's unionized labor as more of its power is chipped away, and a desperate attempt to hold on to what little remains forces the country's unions to act now, or forever holds its peace.
- Launching the Top 10 most read posts of 2012, was Eidesis Capital's must read presentation on the inevitable arrival of the "Big Reset", which also provided advice on what to do when said reset finally hits, although as always, any preventative measures would have to be taken before not after the fact: something most people sternly refuse to understand.
- In 9th spot, and with over 100,000 reads, was the reminder that no, they don't hate us for our freedoms, when Wired magazine exposed the NSA's secret project "Stellar Wind" summarized in '“We Are This Far From A Turnkey Totalitarian State" - Big Brother Goes Live September 2013." Sadly, the American people now realize they all live in an Orwellian world, and refuse to do anything about it. They say, you always get the government you deserve. They are right.
- The 8th spot of 2012 rightfully belongs to an article culminating our research on a topic that will certainly gain far more prominence in 2013: the federal Student Loan bubble, which has now popped, and which is as of this moment a $1+ trillion problem that will surpass the subprime loan bubble in both magnitude and severity in a few short months. For more on why the object of Bernanke's debt monetization in QE7 (or maybe 8) will be federal student loans read "The Scariest Chart Of The Quarter: Student Debt Bubble Officially Pops As 90+ Day Delinquency Rate Goes Parabolic"
- The 7th most popular post of 2012, with 112,813 reads, is the stark reminder that no matter how hard Bernanke tries, he will always fail in forcing America's citizens to adopt his central planning dogma, and abandon hard money in exchange for fiat which will be created out of thin electronic 1s and 0s at an ever accelerating pace. In "The Chart That Keeps Ben Bernanke Up At Night" we learned that in November, the US Mint sold the largest amount of physical gold in history! But... but... why? After all raid after raid on paper gold is meant to drive people out of gold, not into it. Is the facade of gold manipulation finally crumbling? Or is the realization that people don't buy gold for paper currency appreciation but merely to preserve their wealth after the "reset" finally happens, starting to seep in, and that the lower the price of gold the better? Keep an eye on physical gold sales (assuming they are still legal) in 2013 for the answer.
- In 6th spot, with just under 120,000 reads, is an article we thought would get even more page views explaining "When Work Is Punished: The Tragedy Of America's Welfare State" as it summarizes, with no political commentary, ethics, or prejudgment, why in America making $29K and making $69K are essentially identical from a net income and benefits standpoint, and why an encroaching welfare state - whether that of the US or anywhere else, progressively removes the impetus for hard work, as increasingly more rely on the state (read other people's money or Ben Bernanke's printer) for their daily bread. What some may dub the "success of the socialism" marks for us the decline and fall of the once great US nation.
- The 5th most popular article of 2012, with 125,000 page views, is another look at America's welfare state, this time from a decidedly unpleasant perspective, showing how "Foodstamps Surge By Most In One Year To New All Time Record, In Delayed Release." With ever more Americans reliant on Uncle Sam for their daily allowance, a number which in a few short months will surpass 50 million Americans, the day of the "benevolent" central planning government redistributing wealth according to its understanding of "fairness" is here to stay for good.
- In 4th place is a tragedy that seemingly came out of nowhere, yet which has always been latent in America's "exceptionalism", was the "Newtown, CT Elementary School Shooting Tally Rises To 27 Dead, Of Whom 20 Children." More than simply reigniting the painful topic of gun control, it touched upon such sensitive issues as how to deal with mental instability in an increasingly more violence prone America, desensitization to violence, and generally - social decay: topic which the vast majority of Americans would rather not touch with a 10 foot pole until an even greater mass murder tragedy strikes and the country is forced to bury its collective head even deeper into the sand.
- The third most popular article of 2012, with over 132,000 reads, was our exposing of "The World's Biggest Hedge Fund You Have Never Heard Of." It came as a big surprise to most, especially the tech community, that in addition to dominating the very fickle gizmo and gadget market for the past 5 years, Apple quietly managed to not only build up one of the biggest cash hoards in the world, but to actively manage it largely behind the scenes courtesy of Braeburn Capital, a non-descript asset manager operating out of Reno, Nevada (for the tax benefits of course). What Apple's $100+ billion in cash and equivalents is invested in? Many have speculated but nobody really knows.
- The runner up to the most popular article of 2012 was the revelation presented to 143,532 readers, that when the BLS redid its "statistical" analysis database following the Census, a "Record 1.2 Million People Fall Out Of Labor Force In One Month, Labor Force Participation Rate Tumbles To Fresh 30 Year Low." Many C-grade financial pundits were angry with this characterization, and yet nobody denied that. yes, 1.2 million people fell out of the labor force for BLS, and "low unemployment rate propaganda", bottom-line purposes. Expect many more millions to drop out of the labor force... or not - as the current pace of labor force contraction would mean a 6.5% unemployment rate by mid 2013, something which would lead to a premature end of the QE4EVA, and which would send both the stock and the bond markets crashing.
- The most read Zero Hedge article of not only 2012, but of all time, with some 192,000 reads, was "The End Game: 2012 And 2013 Will Usher In The End" - The Scariest Presentation Ever?" No further commentary is necessary.
Finally, while we will, as usual, refrain from predicting where the market closes in 2013, what the 10-Year, silver, tungsten, cotton, or Greece will or won't do in 2013, all meaningless endeavors best suited for Charlatans who have no clearer view of what happens tomorrow than one year from now, but certainly have newsletters or soft-dollar products to pitch and sell, we go back one year to our big picture thematic outlook from December 31, 2011 in which we forecast that "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." Sure enough, this baseline remains valid as we look forward to 2013.
And, sadly as in 2011, we can once again repeat that the trend from 2009 to 2011 and now, to 2012, 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."
Ever grimmer economic, financial, political and social background notwithstanding, we, as always, wish all our readers the best of luck and success in 2013, and a promise of what we can be 100% sure of: 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 months, weeks, days, and hours.