Category Archives: Economy and Meltdown

Tungsten-Filled 10 Oz Gold Bar Found In The Middle Of Manhattan's Jewelry District

It is one thing for tungsten-filled gold bars to appear in the UK, or in Germany: after all out of sight, and across the Atlantic, certainly must mean out of mind, and out of the safe. However, when a 10 ounce 999.9 gold bar bearing the stamp of the reputable Swiss Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux (PAMP, with owner MTP) and a serial number (serial #038892, likely rehypothecated in at least 10 gold ETFs across the world but that’s a different story), mysteriously emerges in the heart of the world’s jewerly district located on 47th street in Manhattan, things get real quick. Moments ago, Myfoxny reported that a 10-ounce gold bar costing nearly $18,000 turned out to be a counterfeit. The discovery was made by the dealer Ibrahim Fadl, who bought the PAMP bar in question from a merchant who has sold him real gold before. “But he heard counterfeit gold bars were going around, so he drilled into several of his gold bars worth $100,000 and saw gray tungsten — not gold. The bar was filled with tungsten, which weighs nearly the same as gold but costs just over a dollar an ounce.”

What makes so devious is a real gold bar is purchased with the serial numbers and papers, then it is hollowed out, the gold is sold, the tungsten is put in, then the bar is closed up. That is a sophisticated operation.


MTB, the Swiss manufacturer of the gold bars, said customers should only buy from a reputable merchant. The problem, he admits, is Ibrahim Fadl is a very reputable merchant.


Raymond Nessim, CEO Manfra, Tordell & Brookes, said he has reported the situation to the FBI and Secret Service.


The Secret Service, which deals with counterfeits, said it is investigating.

And cue panic on the realization that virtually any gold bar in the world, not just those in Europe and Australia, which have already had close encounters with Tungsten substitutes, but also New York may be hollowed out and have a real worth of a few dollars max. Which, sadly, is fitting considering our main story from last night was the realization that an unknown amount of Chinese iron ore had either never existed or had simply vaporized, and was no longer serving as the secured collateral to various liabilities circulating in the electronic ether. After all, only the most naive out there could conceive of gold being sacrosanct when every other asset class is being diluted to infinity by a regime that has long since run out of money.

As for gold-based transactions on West 47th street: look for that market to grind to a halt at least for as long as it takes for this scandal to be forgotten too.

The only open question remaining will be how much of the gold located 90 feet below Libert 33 is in the same Tungstenized format. For what it’s worth: it is unlikely we will ever find out.

This is what glaring gold counterfeiting looks like.

And for the reading challenged:

New York News | NYC Breaking News

All that said, with false flags rampant these days, we would not be surprised if this is merely yet another attempt to discredit gold, this time physical, as an undilutable medium of warehousing wealth. So buyer beware: in a time when everyone is broke, triple check before exchanging one store of wealth for another.

The Inexplicable American Consumer Is Putting The Screws To Health-Care Expenses

Wolf Richter

There has been anecdotal evidence. But now The Wall Street Journal in its story about GE’s quandary confirmed it: the toughest creature out there that no one has been able to subdue yet, the inexplicable American consumer, is apparently accomplishing a miracle: putting the screws to runaway health-care costs. One of their targets: over-used, over-hyped medical services, such as MRIs and CT scans—an industry bubble that has been ballooning by the double digits for decades. Motive? Profit.

It may be early for a victory lap: critics contend that “the health-care system is still overrun by unnecessary imaging at prices that are much higher than in other countries,” the Journal writes. “A study by the International Federation of Health Plans found that US fees for an MRI were about 80% higher than Germany’s.”

American health care costs are beyond legendary. Employer plans that cover a family of four are expected to break the sound barrier of $20,000 this year, up 7% from 2011, and up 117% from ten years ago. The country is spending $2.6 trillion on health care a year, or 17.9% of GDP! Yet, in terms of life expectancy, these expenditures don’t add up. Depending on who is counting, the US ranks somewhere between 38th and 51st place. On the latter list, US life expectancy of 78.49 years is almost 11 years lower than Monaco’s.

The Journal describes the inherent conflict between GE’s health-care division, which generates $18 billion in revenues by selling MRI machines, CT scanners, and the like, and the health insurance program for its employees, which costs $2.5 billion. While the health-care division wanted to sell as many imaging devices as possible, cost cutters wanted to contain the spiraling health-care costs. The cost cutters won—and introduced high-deductible health plans. After two years, the use of imaging technologies dropped by as much as 25%.

Other large corporations are implementing similar plans. In my experience, high-deductible plans have become nearly standard in small companies—to combat skyrocketing costs. What they have accomplished in the process, without planning it, is introduce a new watchdog into the equation, and not any old watchdog, but the sharpest one out there: consumers motivated by profit.

Many companies offer options, where the employee portion for family coverage may drop from, say, $1,200 per month for a classic plan to $600 per month for a high-deductible plan with a maximum out of pocket of $4,000. People do the math. They’d save $600 per month, or $7,200 per year. Any expenses would be capped at $4,000. Savings: $3,200. Plus any out-of-pocket expenses they would have to pay under the traditional plan. These plans qualify for Health Savings Accounts—and contributions to them are deductible from federal income taxes (but not from California income taxes!!!).

For healthy people, a high-deductible plan with an HSA account is financial nirvana. For people with chronic illnesses that are expensive to treat, such a plan may be less advantageous, but may still be a good deal (check your numbers carefully!). It’s a tough plan for those who don’t have the discipline to put aside the monthly savings so that they can pay their big deductible down the road. But it’s a fiasco for those who can barely pay their premiums and have nothing left to put aside—a growing part of the population [read…. The Pauperization of America].

While it’s still nearly impossible to get accurate pricing in advance of medical treatments—and thus price competition remains illusory—it is possible to question the need for certain procedures. Insurance companies who are trying to deny coverage for procedures they deem unnecessary can get into hot water. For them, the path of least resistance is to pay, and then raise premiums. But when a consumer, motivated by profit and a desire to stay healthy, deems a procedure unnecessary, it’s a different story. Suddenly, the profit motive of the industry smacks into the profit motive of the consumer. Rudiments of checks and balances!

Those are personal decisions. But consumers are motivated to think about them and empowered to make them—rather than handing the entire process over to the industry. And when the toughest creature out there has a major medical event that fulfills the deductible, he or she can spend the rest of the year catching up with accumulated elective procedures: cataract surgery, hip replacement, brain transplant…. For free.

It has had an impact. In 2012, plans with deductibles of $1,000 or more made up only 19% of employee-sponsored health plans, according to the Journal. But the radiology industry is now contemplating stagnation: demand by privately insured patients (rather than those covered by Medicare) declined by 5.4% in 2010. And GE saved 15%.

The cellphone in your pocket is NASA-smart. Yet it costs just a couple of hundred dollars. So why is it that rising technical capabilities lead to drastically falling prices everywhere, except in your medical bill? The answer may surprise you. Read…. “Why Your Health Care Is So Darn Expensive,” by Alex Daley and Doug Hornig.

The Zero Hedge Daily Round Up #129 – 09/18/2012

This show is dedicated to all the world’s worst leaders, Barak Obama in particular. We all have our fair share of Obama bashing and Bernanke breaking, but just think about it for a second. If it weren’t for these loonies, we wouldn’t be where we are today.  

We wouldn’t have developed our skills to critically think and we’d just be the same pick of the bunch if everything were sane.  

Let’s be honest, how much of your day do you spend hating Obama and the status quo?

However you really need to take it a step further and look at conflict as a whole. Conflict is everything – it’s human interaction, human nature etc. Without it, we would have no culture and dare I say, no love – hate’s inverse. Forget movies, music and all these things we treasure so much.

Satisfaction is nothing more than a dull tone.

Often as we free market types like to say, you either have complete freedom or varying levels of totalitarianism. 

So why should conflict, inclusive of the current regime, be any different? 

This is The Zero Hedge Daily Round Up.

1. China continues “we hate Japan” parade: economic sanctions, sends ships into Japanese territory. 2. U.S. Totalitarianism back from the dead. 3. Former MF Global head starts Hedge Fund. 4. Nigeria gets it. Bernanke doesn’t. Fed paint innocent picture. 5. Goldbug: get wet. 6. BOJ consider more easing. 7. Median net worth declines. 8. South African strikes end, wage increase. 9. U.S. embassy in Beijing under protest. 10. Jammanji speaks.

Alternatively, you can download the show as a podcast on iTunes or any RSS capable device.

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Julius Reade

P.S. For those paranoid about the government:…

Re-Retaliation: Fire Spotted At Gate Of Chinese School In Kobe, Japan

All day long we read how today, on the 81st anniversary of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria, anti-Japan protests flared up in 125 Chinese cities, for the most part peaceful, protesting what China believes is an illegal Japanese attempt at annexation of the Senkaku Islands as a proximal catalyst, but likely also an outlet for years of pent up anti-Japanese sentiment (of which there is plenty on both sides). For a good example of this see recent events in Muslim countries, US embassies and a certain film about Mohammed. Things got so heated, that late in the day there was some speculation that China may consider retaliating for what it considers an unprovoked territorial grab by the not so beloved eastern neighbor by selling its holdings of Japanese bonds. And while that may or may not occur, the probability of some serious escalation only gets largely greater as we read news of such development, this time out of Japan

  • Fire Spotted At Gate Of Chinese School in Kobe, Japan: Kyodo

Well, if Japan wants this confrontation to get truly ugly, then by all means re-retaliate, and certainly bring the school children in it. One thing is certain: China will not step down, and neither will Japan. What happens next is thus anyone’s guess.

And to think all of this is over a piece of uninhabited rock in the middle of nowhere.