A quick glance at the 20 most popular stories of 2014 as determined by you, our readers, shows something troubling: despite the just concluded 6th consecutive year of a rising S&P 500 - the longest such stretch since 1999 of what otherwise would be deemed optimism - despite what should be a steadily improving economy and improving social and economic conditions, what readers founds most fascinating, and troubling, was the increasing preponderance of social disobedience, of covert, proxy or outright wars, and of civil unrest: all phenomena that accompany a world sliding deeper into distress, not as most central banks and their puppet media would have us believe, a global recovery.
But before we get into the details of what has now become an annual tradition for the last day of the year, those who wish to jog down memory lane, can refresh our most popular articles for every year during our brief 6-year existence, starting with 2009 and continuing with 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013: one for every year of the most artificial and fabricated "bull market" in history.
So without further ado, here are the articles that readers found to be the most popular of the past 365 days.
- In 20th place, with over 143,000 reads, was the first hint that the second cold, and not so cold, war between Russia and the US was going to be not only fought in commodity terms - at least in the beginning - but would do all in America's power to prevent the formation of a Russia-China axis of power, when back in paril we learned that the "US Threatens Russia Over Petrodollar-Busting Deal." As noted above, conflict and its numerous variations, would be the driving feature of what readers were most fascinated by. The ever-escalating conflict between Russia and the US would be merely one of the numerous such developing plotlines that those who were not engrossed by whether Kim Kardashian's ass would indeed break the internet, followed with great interest.
- In 19th place, and rising rapidly, was Zero Hedge at what we believe is its best: peeking behind the propaganda, and revealing the lies hidding in the headline numbers. We did this most recently with "Here Is The Reason For The "Surge" In Q3 GDP." As it turns out, Obamacare may well have been an abysmal failure for many (and will be for most) and its existence depends largely on the "stupidity of American voters", but when it comes to artificially goosing US GDP at opportune times, it is second to none.
- In 18th place, and still very much unexplained, was Zero Hedge breaking one of the biggest stories of the first quarter, namely that out of the blue, none other than the small nexus of the Eurozone, Belgium had emerged as the third largest external holder of US Treasurys in "Meet The Brand New, And Shocking, Third Largest Foreign Holder Of US Treasurys." Some said this was merely China using Euroclear as a custodian service, however this story was promptly rejected when it was revealed that China's foreign reserves actually posted their biggest decline in 2014, in line with what we also revealed previously, namely that China, alongside Russia, has in fact been dumping Treasurys and its US paper holdings are now the lowest they have been since February 2013. The "Belgian" mystery continues.
- In 17th place, with well over 160,000 reads, was the shocking revealtion that in the aftermath of one of the biggest stories of 2013, the Cyprus bail-in, "Europe Considers Wholesale Savings Confiscation, Enforced Redistribution" - hardly surprising for a socialist continent that is rapidly running out of other people's money but quite stunning considering that the European dominoes are always just one bank run away from toppling. Now with Grexit is back on the European stage, keep a close eye on what happens with European deposits: if we are correct, what happened in Cyprus was merely a trial run for what is coming next as the real problem facing Europe, several trillion in bad bank loans, has never been addressed.
- In 16th place we had a somewhat different glimpse behind the biggest rags to riches story of 2014: that of China's Jack Ma, who overnight became China's richest person following the IPO of Alibaba. But it wasn't his wealth that fascinated readers, it was his austere pragmatism when he said that "If You're Poor At 35, You Deserve It." Is he right, or wrong, we don't know, but well over 100,000 readers clicked to read his opinion.
- In 15th place, with just under 170,000 reads, was a brief glimpse into what was certainly one the biggest surprise stories of 2014: that of the Islamic State, or ISIS, which emerged as if out of nowhere, and in the span of just a few short weeks controlled a territory within Iraq and Syria the size of the UK. And while ISIS took over enough oil infrastructure (not to mention US army vehicles) to become quickly self-funding, some wonder just who is behind the world's most fearsome adversary of 2014. How gruesome? Read "Footage Of ISIS Atrocities Reveals Al Qaeda Jihadists "Will Stop At Nothing" to find out.
- In 14th place was one of the most "self-explanatory" posts of the past year: one which showed the symbolic placement of world leaders by China during the APEC economic forum which took place in Beijing a month ago, and which made us wonder if "China was Sending America a Message." Putin and Obama were there, and therein lay the punchline.
- In 13th spot we are reminded that the biggest international conflict was not that taking place in Iraq between ISIS and everyone else, but in Ukraine, where a proxy government was put in power by the US State Department in order to facilitate the encroachment of NATO and to assure that hostilities with Russia were only a matter of time. How do we know Ukraine's government was a puppet regime of the US? Because as a leak in March revealed, "Behind The Kiev Snipers It Was Somebody From The New Coalition", a new coalition which came into power only after Victoria Nuland's leaked recording confirmed all everyone had to know.
- In 12th spot we reminded over 150,000 of our readers that as the mainstream media desperately scrambles to sucker in the retail bagholder into the "stock market", which as we have revealed over the past 6 years is rigged by central banks and HFT algos beyond recognition, the richest and smartest people in the room are quietly cashing out in "Icahn, Soros, Druckenmiller, And Now Zell: The Billionaires Are All Quietly Preparing For The Plunge"
- In 11th spot, and surprisingly not higher was a reminder that while the US president droned on about Russia being isolated, the BRIC nations, those countries which actually produce "stuff", and who collectively account for half the world's population, are "Morphing Into An Anti-Dollar Alliance." What will it take for the metamorphosis to be complete? A few more months of global developing market pain and capital outflow as a result of the soaring dollar, and the BRICs may have no choice but to conclude their transition to a post-dollar world.
- In 10th spot was an article that dealt with America's own urban decay: not in its shiny, glitzy metropolises, but in the heartland: the city that once symbolized America's manufacturing strength and productive ingenuity, and which now lies in ruins. Literally. Don't believe us? Then see for yourselves in "The Death And Decay Of Detroit, As Seen From The Streets"
- In 9th, and 7th spots were a vivid reminder of just why the S&P at all time highs feels so wrong: because while in modern US society the richest have never been richer, the schism between the rich and poor has never been greater, and where racial, ethnic and class conflict is stirring and ever more often rising to the surface with deadly consequences. In 2014, the Missouri town of Ferguson symbolized this lethal divide. For those who missed it can relive this preview of what is to come to ever greater parts of the US in "Ferguson In Flames, Shots Fired, Police Car Destroyed, Tear-Gas Deployed, Looting; NYC Brooklyn & Triborough Bridge & LA Freeways Blocked" and "Ferguson Violence: Protesters Warn "The Revolution Won't Be Televised" - 'Rubber Bullets & Tear Gas' Update."
- Another confirmation that all is not well, and that the disconnect between the S&P and the underlying economy has grown to farcical levels, was revealed with the 8th most popular article of 2014 in "People Not In Labor Force Soar To Record 91.8 Million; Participation Rate Plunges To 1978 Levels." No further explanation is necessary.
- In 6th place was the "other side" of the argument of the story that shook the world over the summer: who brought down Malaysian airlines flight MH-17 over east Ukraine. The mainstream western media made up its mind within hours that it was all Putin. And then there was the other side of the argument such as when "Russia Says Has Photos Of Ukraine Deploying BUK Missiles In East, Radar Proof Of Warplanes In MH17 Vicinity."
- The 5th most popular article, with over 184,000 reads, was a simple reminder that math and the current US financial state simply can no coexist, because "Paying Down The Debt Is Now Almost Mathematically Impossible." Sure, the chartalists, acronymists and other monetary dogmatists will say: there is no point in actually repaying the debt. And yes, as long as there are those who are willing to fund America's growth, growth can continue. If and when those benign entities disappear it's game over. In 2014 we saw many such formerly benign entities decide they have had it with the US. But at least there is always the Fed willing to monetize all US debt if it has to...
- In 4th spot we were reminded that even as the S&P hit new record highs over 50 times in the year, one of the smartest people in the room has zero faith in a rigged, manipulated, liquidity-drrenched "market" which is only where it is simply due to the generosity of printer-armed central planners. Proof? The ""Soros Put" Hits Record As Billionaire's Downside Hedge Rises By 154% in Q4 To $1.3 Billion." One day the put will pay off very handsomely.
- In 3rd place was a viral reminder that while America is a great country, it does have its drawbacks. Over 250,000 readers agreed when we showed the ""Worst Possible States To Live In" As Ranked By Their Residents." All we have to say here to our readers from Illinois: our condolences.
- Finally, with over 600,000 combined readers, we leave it to our readers to spot the common theme in the two top articles on Zero Hedge for 2014, titled, simply enough, "OECD Fears Middle Class Civil Unrest Is Coming" and "Martin Armstrong Warns Civil Unrest Is Rising Everywhere: "This Won't End Pretty.""
So with all of this pessimism behind us, does that leave us more optimistic heading into 2015?
We don't know: as frequent readers know, we do not pretend to be able to predict the future. We do know, however, that with $11 trillion in liquidity injected just by the world's developed central banks, and the tens of trillions of credit money created (and misallocated) by China - a country which was the world's growth dynamo for the past three decades and which is now rapidly slowing down - the entire world is floating on an ocean of excess money, which for one more year has succeeded in masking just how ugly the truth beneath the calm surface is. Sooner or later, the tide always comes out, and those swimming naked are always exposed. However, this time it will be the very final backstoppers of the status quo regime, the central banking emperors of the New Normal, who are finally revealed as wearing absolutely nothing. What happens then, and when that happens, is anyone's guess. But, as we have promised - and delivered - every year for the past six, we will be there to document every aspect of it.
Finally, and as always, we wish all our readers the best of luck and success in 2015, and leave off with our unwavering year-end promise: Zero Hedge will be there each and every day helping readers expose, unravel and comprehend the fallacy, fiction, fraud and farce that the system is reduced to (ab)using each and every day just to keep the grand tragicomedy going for at least one more day.