One year ago, when looking at the 20 most popular stories of 2017, we admitted that perhaps as a result of too many conflicting narratives and outcomes, it was difficult to find a coherent theme of the key events that shook the world, and which you, our readers, found most interesting and notable.
- 2017 was a year of continued populist upheaval and political shocks, twists, turns and unexpected outcomes, a continuation of the "unexpected" Brexit vote outcome and Trump's shocking presidential victory, both of which forced many to re-evaluate what "expert", "pundit" and certainly "opinion poll" means; it was also the year when the concept of "fake news" became ubiquitously used by the establishment to slam any reporting it disagreed with and to justify why it was so wrong about everything, yet which would boomerang and lead to an even greater collapse in mainstream media credibility.
- 2017 was year in which class warfare in the US approached unprecedented levels with antagonism between races, genders, ethnicities, ideologies, age groups and incomes all approaching peak levels, and spilling over, literally, on the street as the US public was inundated with reports of ordinary citizens snapping and killing their peers in cold blood, of petulant students demanding conformity, and culminating with the deadliest mass shooting event in US history when a Vegas gunman killed 58 people and injured 851. His motives are still unknown.
- 2017 was a year of perplexing market calm: despite daily news of political, geopolitical and social turmoil, the market ignored virtually any potential risks and chugged along ever higher, with volatility crumbling to an all time low as the VIX printed a record number of days in the single digits.
- it was a year in which the S&P closed far higher than many had speculated, and defied the doomsayers who predicted a crash after Donald Trump won the presidential election despite the ongoing pile up of various imbalances, thanks largely to an unprecedented fiscal stimulus by Trump, ongoing credit injections by China which has single-handedly been the world's biggest source of new debt creation since the financial crisis, as well as the now widely accepted support of central banks around the globe which injected a record amount of liquidity in 2017 and whose only mandate is to prop up asset prices or else risk another crash, a collapse in the pension system of an increasingly aging developed world, resulting in violent social upheaval.
- it was a year in which the geopolitical situation outside of the U.S. continued to deteriorate, although as a result of non-US intervention in Syria, we also saw the end of ISIS even as the historic refugee crisis and immigrant wave that was unleashed as a result of Syrian proxy war would alter the ethnic and demographic face of Europe for years to come, while also unleashing a wave of terrorist events as governments across the globe sought to exploit the crisis for their own selfish reasons, while resulting in an even greater surge in Europe's populist power
- In summary, 2017 was a year of confused flux and of dramatic change: change which was largely amorphous and chaotic but which we said would crystallize over 2018, "in unpredictable and, sadly, violent ways."
It did indeed, because while many of the trends observed in 2017 were taken to their logical extremes in 2018, it is difficult to say that 2018 provided much needed closure to many of the themes and narratives that emerged in the previous year and earlier, most of which played out in the political arena, where for the first time in decades, the non-establishment president of the world's biggest superpower, a manifestation of the "protest vote" that had built up over the past decade, shook to the core everything that the world had taken for granted, setting the stage for a dramatic revulsion from widely accepted norms and principles.
As we had warned for years, the vast if silent majority, feeling snubbed and neglected by the political oligarchy and the world's central bankers, decided to take the power back which they did within the confines of the democratic process, sending the establishment reeling, by rejecting years of legacy narratives by replacing decades of a failed, and flawed, political regime in the US with something... different.
And yet, looking back over the past 12 months, it remains to be seen if these changes will be successful and bear fruit, or if they will be a change for the worse.
To be sure, the defeated establishment forces refused to go gentle into that good night and created an unprecedented McCarthyism 2.0 narrative that desperately hoped to make Trump's victory appear as the outcome of collusion with Russia, yet now - 24 months after the election and half way into Trump's presidential term - we still await the much-anticipated Mueller report that is expected to definitively prove the president colluded with Moscow in some capacity.
It is also true that while many had placed high hopes that Trump would prove to be an agent of substantial change, the president initially doused such expectations as he rushed to surround himself with Wall Street "experts" and corporate oligarchs who promptly hijacked the post-Obama transition process resulting in... more of the same. As such it is hardly a surprise that the biggest legislative achievement by the Trump administration heading into 2018, was a tax cut that benefits corporations and the wealthy first and foremost, even as it adds trillions more to the already record US debt.
That said, changes within the administration did start to emerge as the year progressed, when Gary Cohn, Trump's chief economic advisor and former Goldman COO, resigned after repeated confrontations with Trump. Things only escalated from that point on as one after another prominent Trump advisor took the revolving door out of the administration, which saw the departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and National Security Advisor HR McMaster, and which most recently parted ways with both its Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, its Chief of Staff, John Kelly and Defense Secretary, James Matthis.
Some called it Trump "draining the swamp." Others saw the accelerating departures as clear evidence the White House had become a sinking ship. Whatever one wanted to call it, the simple reality is that as we entered 2018, people had enough and wanted change. This, in the words of the established media, was called "populism", and the transformation process which allowed it to take place was maligned under the umbrella definition of "fake news."
It is also why in a popular snapback of displeasure against the Trump administration, the Republican party suffered a major defeat in the House during the midterm elections, even as the GOP preserved their majority in the Senate, resulting in what is guaranteed government gridlock for at least another two years.
And while few would call Trump's domestic or foreign policies a resounding success, the president did deliver on what may arguably have been his most important task, and accomplishment: placing a second conservative Justice in the Supreme Court - despite an unprecedented campaign by the left to smear Brett Kavanaugh - and with recent news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's deteriorating health, Trump may achieve an unprecedented trifecta, virtually assuring a conservative majority in the Supreme Court for years if not decades.
To be fair, Trump had another accomplishment in 2018: this was the year when the US economy decoupled from the rest of the world - if only briefly - as both the US economy and stock market grew at a remarkable pace for much of the year, even as the president waged an increasingly bitter trade war with both China and the rest of the world, and which brought China's economic growth to the lowest in modern history while sending China's stock market crashing. The counterargument is that this remarkable decoupling from the est of the word, and the impressive GDP growth in the US economy, was only possible thanks to Trump's unprecedented fiscal stimulus which while providing a brief tailwind, will result in trillion-dollar budget deficits in coming years, a massive increase in US government debt, and could potentially risk a debt crisis should foreign and domestic investors balk and refuse to fund America's profligate ways. Indeed, it was an inflationary and interest rate scare in October - coupled with Chairman Powell's "long way to neutral" comment - that the defining moment for US capital markets in 2018, as it clearly delineated the two phases for US stocks: one of gradual ascent for the first nine months of the year, culminating with the S&P's all time high hit on September 20, followed by a brutal selloff which has left countless traders dazed and confused as markets realized that the Fed may be tightening into a recession, and only recent comments by the Fed Chair have suggested that the Fed's numerous rate hikes forecast into 2019 may in fact be zero.
Meanwhile, after a year of record low volatility largely on the back of 2017's record $2.5 trillion in central bank liquidity injected at a time of the first coordinated global recovery in over a decade, 2018 was a mirror image from the very beginning, when a violent January meltup in stocks resulted in February's violent VIX explosion as the "negative convexity" emerging from a record high vol gamma suddenly spontaneously combusted to destroy volatility sellers and overnight wiped out the universe of inverse VIX ETFs, leading to the first S&P500 correction since the Shanghai Accord of 2016. It wouldn't be the last one, because while many optimistic pundits said not to dwell too much on it, the VIXtermination event of February 5 was merely a harbinger of the market chaos that would emerge toward the end of the year.
Another problem, as so many banks hinted across the year, is that some suspect that the sputtering global economic recovery may be the result of central bank liquidity which starting right about now, is finally being withdrawn after a decade of liquidity injections. And, as a record $1 trillion in global liquidity is pulled from the system by central banks which now realize they have created a massive asset bubble, the outcome could - according to countless skeptics - be dire.
Of course, 2018 is the year when in addition to a renewed focus on monetary stimulus, fiscal policies were great again, so to say, if only for the time being as Trump's $1 trillion fiscal stimulus boosted the economy just as wage growth and inflation finally rebounded and the job market reached a critical point where there were more vacant jobs the unemployed workers; it is this stimulus that prompted Fed concerns about overheating late in the summer and culminated with Powell's famous speech that "we’re a long way from neutral at this point" which as we noted correctly at the time "Fed Chair Powell Hints He May Soon Crash The Market." We were correct, as just after that speech, the market tumbled into a historic swoon which briefly dipped into a bear market on the day before Christmas, when as a result of massive hedge fund liquidations saw the worst Christmas Eve on record for the stock market. Previewing just this outcome last year, we said that "it would be ironic if Trump's greatest legislative achievement in 2017 is also the catalyst for the next American recession" and looking ahead, it has become a virtual consensus that a recession is looming, the only question is whether it hits in 2020 or as early as late 2019. Ominously, the market has already priced in the end of Fed rate hikes in 2019 and expects the first rate hike - a coincident indicator of a recession - to take place in early 2020.
And speaking of our year ahead outlook exactly one year ago today, we also said that "one of the biggest questions facing 2018 is whether this transition from monetary to fiscal policy will actually take place, and how smooth this a handover will be. For now optimism and hope prevail: global markets closed 2017 at an all time high with volatility just barely off record lows." Needless to say, the handover has so far been anything but smooth as the fading effect of fiscal stimulus - and China's inability to stimulate its own economy crippled by what is already a record high debt load - coupled with what is now a net drain on global liquidity by central banks has led to what has been the most turbulent stock market since the financial crisis, and resulted in the worst drop in global stocks in the past decade.
And speaking of China's economy, in addition to the ongoing debate of fiscal and monetary stimulus, the biggest geopolitical event of 2018 was almost certainly the ongoing trade war between the US and China which has escalated to the point where virtually all of China's imports (and US export to China) are or soon will be subject to tariffs, crippling global trade flows and forcing producers on both sides of the Pacific to seek alternative supply-chains. Should Trump and Xi fail to find an amicable resolution to this ongoing trade feud, we fully expect the trade war narrative to dominate capital markets in 2019, resulting in even more pain for stocks as globalization suffers its latest hit. Meanwhile, China's economy continues to undergo an unprecedented slowdown, trapped on one side by deteriorating diplomatic relations with the US, and on the other limited by how much organic credit growth Beijing can inject to stimulate what is already an economy that is laboring under an unprecedented debt load.
Continuing on the themes from the prior year, 2018 also demonstrated how dominant the political narrative has become when it comes to finance and capital markets. For all those lamenting that relentless coverage of politics in a financial blog (which sadly also includes every tweet from Donald Trump), why finance appears to have taken a secondary role, and why the political "narrative" has taken a dominant role for financial analysts, the past year showed vividly why that is the case. After all, none other than the president rejoiced publicly at every new all time high in the S&P and, conversely, has been uncharacteristically silent during the recent sharp drawdown.
The reason for Trump's recent self-imposed radio silence on all things market is simple: after declaring the S&P500 a "massive bubble", Trump had pivoted to the point where he would take daily credit for the market's record highs. And, as we said last year, "eventually, the time will come for Trump to pay the piper." That time came in the fourth quarter of 2018 when the S&P, along with most other developed markets tumbled as suddenly what had worked for years, no longer worked, and the one dominant strategy of the past decade, namely "buy the dip", finally failed and was replaced with "sell the rip."
But if one had to summarize the dramatic market shifts in 2018 as simply as possible, it is that in the past year, and really just past three months, we observed a dramatic reversal in which traders, who had habituated to a world where nothing wrong can ever again happen, finally remembered - violently - that adverse newsflow and negative events have consequences, and that in a world where central banks no longer provide training wheels, one must take risk to generate return, something which most hedge funds had forgotten and as a result suffered the worst year for the "2 and 20" industry since 2011.
Another problem with this habituation that "no news can ever again be bad news" was that - as we said in our 2017 year end review - it was no longer clear what the market may or may not have priced in, absent hope and expectations of central bank intervention to arrest any future selling episodes; central bank intervention which in 2017 hit all time highs and numerically amounted to over $15 trillion in cumulative liquidity injections. And, as we said in December 2017, "with a major shift now taking place away from monetary and toward fiscal policy, the "assumption of hope" will be tested in 2018. Perhaps violently."
That violence was on full display in the fourth quarter, and especially in December when volatility exploded and when the Dow moved by triple digits on no less than 13 days, leaving traders shaken, shocked, and paralyzed.
Another assumption that will be tested in the coming year is whether "China no longer matters" for US markets, something which was certainly not the case in 2018. Back in 2015, US futures would swoon the moment the PBOC announced even a modest drop in the Yuan. On the other hand, for much of 2017 and 2018, US equities could care less what Beijing did, how high NPLs among Chinese banks rose, how pervasive corporate defaults in China became, or what the future held for China, and its $40 trillion in financial assets. We have a nagging suspicion that whether or not the US manages to avoid a recession in 2019, and the business cycle is now so long in the tooth the current expansion is now the second longest in US history, any global shock will ultimately come out of Beijing, regardless of whether Trump and Xi manage to find a common language and put the trade war between the two nations aside.
Still, while many themes, both in the political and financial realm, did get some closure, dramatic changes in 2018 persisted, and will continue to manifest themselves in dramatic, often violent and unexpected ways - from the unprecedented obsession with everything Trump does, says and tweets, to "populist" upheavals in Europe and around the developed world, to renewed capital flight out of China. Perhaps these non-stop changes is the reason why 2018 was another record year for Zero Hedge, which recently crossed 5 billion cumulative page views since inception, just over five years after hitting our first 1 billion pageview milestone.
As always, we thank all of our readers for making this website - which has never seen one dollar of outside funding (and despite amusing recurring allegations, has certainly never seen a ruble from the KGB either), and has never spent one dollar on marketing - a small (or not so small) part of your daily routine. Which also brings us to another amusing topic: that of fake news, and something we - and others who do not comply with the established narrative - have been accused of. While we find the narrative of fake news laughable, after all every single article in this website is backed by facts and links to outside sources, we find it a dangerous development, and a very slippery slope that the entire developed world - is pushing for what is, when stripped of fancy jargon, internet censorship under the guise of protecting the average person from "dangerous, fake information."
To preserve its counter-establishment aura, it goes without saying that the current administration should overturn this blatant attack on the First Amendment, and let people decide for themselves what is and isn't fake news. If anything, it is the conventional, mainstream media, most of which is owned by a handful of corporations with extensive ties to the government, that demonstrated on many occasions in 2018 that it is the primary creator and distributor of "fake news", something which has not escaped the broader US population the majority of which no longer has trust in the conventional news media.
In addition to the other themes noted above, we expect the crackdown on free speech to accelerate in the coming year, especially as the following list of Top 20 articles for 2018 reveals, many of the most popular articles in the past year were precisely those which the conventional media would not touch out of fear of repercussions, which in turn allowed the alternative media to find an entry point, and take significant market share from the established outlets by covering topics which the public relations arm of established media outlets refused to do, in the process earnings itself the derogatory "fake news" condemnation.
We are grateful that our readers - who hit a new record high in 2018 - have realized it is incumbent upon them to decide what is, and isn't "fake news."
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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 no longer that brief, almost 10-year existence, starting with 2009 and continuing with 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
So without further ado, here are the articles that you, our readers, found to be the most engaging, interesting and popular based on the number of hits, during the past year.
- In 20th spot, with just over 600,000 page views, was a question affecting a company that investors either love or hate: Tesla. Elon Musk got in a lot of trouble with the SEC in 2018 after tweeting, without reason, that he had "funding secured" for an LBO deal, only for it to emerge that he was merely hoping to "burn the shorts" and force a short squeeze. Well the shorts enjoyed a brief moment in the sun as TSLA stock tumble, only to rebound after the company's best quarter yet. However, questions have emerged when people asked "Why Are "Thousands" of Teslas Sitting In a Field in California?" prompting questions if Musk is merely stashing away excess inventory in order to represent ongoing strong ongoing demand for the Model 3. This, along with many other questions involving Tesla and its ongoing viability will hopefully be answered in the coming year.
- In 19th spot, with just over 650,000 page views was a troubling report about the ubiquitous presence of big brother when "Police Raided The Home Of Man Who Posted Pictures Of His Mushroom Dinner On Facebook" in which we described the story of a man who posted photos of his homegrown morel mushrooms on Facebook, and which led to a visit to his home hours later from law enforcement apparently investigating possible use of psychedelic mushrooms. Increasingly, social media is becoming a giant privacy liability, as many around the world have learned in a year of scandals for Facebook and its peers, when it emerged that there is no such thing as "privacy", and one's data is sold with impunity to the highest bidder.
- In 18th spot, with over 667,000 page views, was the latest story of economic collapse out of that Latin American "socialist paradise" - Venezuela - which as part of its ongoing hyperinflationary disintegeration succumbed to another round of "Chaos After Maduro Announces Massive 95% Devaluation" with the new FX Rate Tied, paradoxically, to the country's Cryptocurrency. While the endgame for now officially bankrupt Venezuela is clear, the biggest question is just how much longer will the people tolerate Maduro at the head of what is now the worst instance of hyperinflation in world history, with Venezuela's hyperinflation of 1,000,000% now surpassing even that of the Weimar Republic.
- In 17th spot, over 687,000 readers were shocked to learn that in parallel to what Trump has dubbed the biggest "witch hunt in history", the "DOJ's Inspector General Horowitz Found that FBI, DOJ Broke the Law In Clinton Probe" and has refers to prosecutor for criminal charges. President Trump has repeatedly accused the DOJ of a campaign to spy and discredit his presidency, and has claimed that the "Russian collusion" is just an ongoing attempt to distract from the real story: the coverup of alleged crimes of Hillary's email server. 2019 will provide some closure on this matter with the Mueller investigation expected to conclude early in the year. What happens next, and whether Trump is impeached as a result, remains to be seen.
- In 16th spot, readers shifted their attention to yet another political crisis, this time in South Africa, where "As Land Confiscations Loom, South Africa Rules 300,000 Gun-Owners Turn Over Their Weapons." While the South African economy was relatively stable in 2018, this may not persist next year especially if, as the ruling party has decided, white landowner lands are to be expropriated, potentially resulting in a nationalization of private assets. And since such an act may be accompanied with mass weapon confiscation, some see in current events in South Africa a preview of the worst case scenario for any developed nation in which the government becomes too powerful and seeks to pander to a specific group of voters.
- In 15h spot, with just under 690,000 page views, was a surprising and in fact shocking admission by the Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who admitted in a CNN interview that former President Obama instigated the ongoing investigations into Donald Trump and those in his orbit. Meanwhile, instead of focusing on potential abuses by the prior administration, the US media and public dutifully follow every twist and turn in the most contrived narrative, that of Vladimir Putin somehow winning Trump's election for him, which of course has been a recurring sideshow for the past two years, mostly meant to "explain" why Hillary Clinton lost an election which every expert said she was assured of winning.
- In 14th spot, with over 738,000 page views, was the latest troubling development in Sweden, which in recent years had become a haven for immigrants with dire consequences for the local population, and which in mid-August was "burning", after "Migrant Gangs Unleash Coordinated Fire-Bomb Rampage Across Multiple Cities." And amid public calls for tougher policies on crime and immigration, 2018 saw yet another populist anti-immigrant party, the Jimmie Åkesson-led Sweden Democrats, storm the polls in the country's September election, in the latest slap to Europe's legacy establishment, an outcome that was only made possible, ironically, thanks to Angela Merkel's liberal "open door" policies.
- In 13th spot, over 787,000 readers were shocked to learn that a photograph of two migrant children sleeping in a cage at an ICE detention facility which quickly went viral on the net, and which served as the focal point of outrage du jour at President Trump's immigration policy, had in fact been taken under Obama, prompting hilarious responses from blue checkmarked liberals, such as CNN's Hadas Gold, who deleted her previous outraged tweet saying "Deleted previous tweet because gave impression of recent photos (they're from 2014)"
- The 12th most popular post of 2018, with over 804,000 page views, belonged to the Democratic Party's rising socialist icon - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - who had been on an intense media junket since her upset primary victory over establishment Democrat Joe Crowley. The socialist phenom had told the Washington Post "I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family — mother from Puerto Rico, dad from the South Bronx. I was born in a place where your Zip code determines your destiny." Except that Ocasio-Cortez grew up in one of the richest counties in the United States, Yorktown Heights a wealthy suburb of Westchester County. There has been a lot of cognitive dissonance within America's Democratic Socialists ever since.
- More than 886,000 readers tuned in on November 7, when the midterms revealed that a significant portion of America had grown disenchanted with Trump/Republican policies and as a result the House flipped to Democrat control with a sizable majority even as the GOP retained control over Congress (and the all important Supreme Court decision process). The resulting gridlock assures that even less will be done for America's middle class in the coming two years than was done in the prior two years.
- In 10th spot, with over 935,000 page views, readers were amused to learn of the fall of one of the most prominent leaders of the anti-Trump resistance, prominent lawyer Michael Avenatti, who had risen to resistance defending porn star Stormy Daniels and staged a furious campaign to discredit Trump's latest pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanugh, only to see it backfire as "Michael Avenatti Turns Radioactive As Liberals Blame Porn Lawyer For Kavanaugh Confirmation" after many of the allegations from his client Julie Swetnick proved to be false, thereby discrediting much of the anti-Kavanaugh grassroots campaign, in the process also scuttling any hopes Avenatti may have had to run for president in 2020.
- In 9th spot, over 964,000 readers were amazed to learn of a "modest proposal" floated by the Chicago Fed, which in May unveiled its "solution" to Chicago's pension problem: as we reported, an "audible gasp" was heard from the audience when a speaker from the Chicago Fed proposed levying a special property assessment they estimate would be about 1% of actual property value for 30 years. In other words, the Fed had just floated to "confiscate wealth from current owners because they will pay, whether they stay or not, through an immediate reduction in home value." While Wirepoints said that "It surely ranks among the most blatantly inhumane and foolish ideas we’ve seen yet" it may be a harbinger of the proposals the Fed will implement during the next financial crisis, especially if the Fed is unable to cut rates to negative or launch a new round of QE.
- Nearly 1 million readers were surprised to learn, or perhaps not, that as diplomatic relations between Washington and Moscow deteriorated sharply in the spring, Russia - which had repeatedly warned it would pursue dedollarization, had quietly liquidated virtually all of its Treasury holdings, in the process setting off a sharp spike in Treasury yields. Indeed, from $96 billion in March, Putin shrank his US Treasury holdings to just $9BN in May, converting the bulk of the proceeds into gold and Chinese yuan. The bigger question remains: will China do the same?
- 1,147,000 readers may have been wondering if we were joking or not when we reported that "poop patrollers" in San Francisco make a cool $185,000 a year in salary and benefits. Alas, it was not joke, but merely the latest in a string of shocking revelations exposing how deep San Francisco's crisis of vast amounts of vagrant-generated feces covering its public streets actually runs. It was also the 7th most popular article of 2018.
- And speaking of San Francisco's homeless problem, the 6th most popular article with over 1,167,000 page views was our report that "terrified" San Francisco tourists were shocked to find aggressive vagrants, discarded needles and dead bodies. "Is this normal or am I in a 'bad part of town?' Just walked past numerous homeless off their faces, screaming and running all over the sidewalk near Twitter HQ and then a murder scene. Wife is scared to leave hotel now," a Reddit user wrote in shock. Meanwhile, despite its homeless crisis, San Francisco remains the city with the biggest real estate bubble in the US, courtesy of the unlimited dollars flowing through the Silicon Valley Venture Capital mecca.
- In 5th spot, with over 1,240,000 page views, a troubling report involving California's unstable geological foundations found that "California Was Hit By 39 Quakes In 24 Hours As Scientists Warn Of "Movement Along The San Andreas Fault"." As we wrote at the time, when you live in an area that sits along a major earthquake fault, it can be easy to forget the potential danger if nothing happens for an extended period of time. But the danger is always there, and for many California residents the rattling that we witnessed was a clear reminder of that fact. The good news is that so far "the big one" has yet to strike.
- In 4th spot, with 1,380,130 page views in 2018, readers were amazed to learn, at long last, that the CFO of the Clinton Foundation admitted to investigators that the charity had widespread problems with governance, accounting and conflicts of interest, and that Bill Clinton has been commingling business and personal expenses for a long time. In other words, confirming what for years the mainstream media has slammed as, you guessed it, "fake news."
- The third most popular article of 2018, with almost 1.4 million page revealed even more reader fascination with events in South Africa, where popular politician Julius Malema, aka "the Hitler of South Africa", was recorded saying that “we have not called for the killing of white people. At least for now. I can’t guarantee the future." It is unclear what will happen in the future if and when Malema does order the killing of white people.
- In late April, in response to an incident in which a Philadelphia manager called the police on a pair of black men who were sitting in A Starbucks store without having purchased anything, the contrite coffee chain announced that as part of its "inclusiveness" training, it would allow vagrants to use the coffee chain's bathrooms as they please. So, perhaps it wasn't surprising, that with over 1,465,000 page views, the second most popular post of 2018 were the furious responses Starbucks employees to "becoming the world's biggest public toilet" as yet another attempt at virtue signalling imploded spectacularly.
- And speaking of "spectacular backfiring", it is perhaps appropriate that the most popular article of 2018 was what happened in September when the head of the California Democratic Party called for a boycott of famed burger chain In and OUt after a public filing revealed that the company had recently donated $25,000 to the state’s Republican Party. The result was that instead of a boycott, a torrent of customers came to their favorite restaurant and bought extra food, resulting in a blockbuster revenue day for the private hamburger chain. Nearly 2.1 million readers got a chuckle out of that one.
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With all that behind us, what is in store for 2019, besides our tenth year anniversary in just ten days of course?
We don't know: as frequent and not so frequent readers are aware, we do not pretend to be able to predict the future and we don't try despite endless allegations that we constantly predict the collapse of everything: we leave the predicting to the "smartest people in the room" who year after year have been consistently wrong about everything, and never more so than in the last three years, which destroyed the reputation of the conventional media and the professional "polling" and "strategist" class for ever. We merely observe, try to find what is unexpected, entertaining, amusing, surprising or grotesque in an increasingly bizarre, sad, and oftentime crazy world, and then write about it.
We do know, however, that after $16 trillion in liquidity has been conjured out of thin air by the world's 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 not only rapidly slowing down but engaged in a trade war with the US (there is a saying that shooting wars usually follow trade wars) - the entire world is floating on an ocean of excess money, which for one more year almost succeeded in masking just how ugly the truth beneath the calm surface is. Now, as the Fed hiking and actively shrinking its balance sheet and the ECB set to join in just a few days (with the BOJ not too far behind), as the liquidity tide starts to come out in earnest, those swimming naked will finally be exposed, especially if as we expect, the handoff from monetary to fiscal policy is far more volatile than what the market currently prices in.
The question we have: how far will the tide be allowed to recede before central banks step in again, or as has become topical recently, how long before Trump's displeasure with the falling market finally manifests itself in a change among the Fed's top echelons.
We are confident, however, that in the end it will be the very final backstoppers of the status quo regime, the central banking emperors of the New Normal, who will eventually be revealed as fully naked. When that happens and what happens after is anyone's guess. But, as we have promised - and delivered - every year for the past nine, we will be there to document every aspect of it.
Finally, and as always, we wish all our readers the best of luck in 2019, with much success in trading and every other avenue of life. We bid farewell to 2018 with our traditional and unwavering year-end promise: Zero Hedge will be there each and every day - on most occasions with a cynical smile - 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 year.