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Gold and its beguiling promise of assured riches have lured clever men into making bad decisions for millennia. The latest to have fallen under its alchemical spell is apparently John Paulson, hedge fund billionaire and the man who made his name — and a $5 billion profit — betting against that other supposedly safe bet, the housing market.

In just two days last week, the 57-year-old hedge fund manager lost almost $1 billion as the gold price slumped at a speed unseen in decades. With a personal fortune valued by Forbes magazine at $11.2 billion, Paulson can weather the loss, but this is not his first stumble since his historic bet on the property crash made him the world’s most famous hedge fund manager. And despite recent events, he is still flying the gold standard.

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