Every sports commentator can agree on one thing: The true measure of a great athlete is how they perform when the pressure is on. These are certainly key times for gold, and all eyes were on Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) yesterday as the company buried a clutch basket in the final seconds of the first quarter. It wasn't the three-pointer fans were hoping for, but it was a great shot nonetheless.
Fans have good reason to celebrate the numbers. Goldcorp enjoyed an 88% year-over-year rise in earnings per share, to $0.32. Even subtracting a $136 million gain from the sale of its stake in brainchild Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW ) , the company doubled earnings on an adjusted basis. The average realized gold price rose 43% to $932 per ounce. No doubt Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) is eyeing those numbers and wishing it had no remaining hedges on its books.
All of the major gold producers have obscene quantities of gold in the ground. Amid rising prices for everything from energy to equipment, the cash cost of production per ounce of gold is a fundamental metric to watch. Due in part to the relative strength of the Canadian dollar, Goldcorp's production costs increased 33%, from $181 a year ago to $240. On a comparable co-product basis (excluding gains from other metals), Goldcorp and Newmont Gold (NYSE: NEM ) reported identical costs of $396 per ounce of production.
As strong as the quarter was, it could have been truly amazing. Operations in Canada suffered several setbacks. At the Red Lake mine, roughly 30,000 ounces of gold production was whiffed because of unanticipated mining of low-grade ores and "mine sequencing issues," which in this Fool's opinion is code for "we messed up." Mechanical problems with the crushing circuit at the Musselwhite mine caused an 18-day stoppage. On the bright side, the company is promising better results from Canadian operations for the remainder of the year. Latin American operations met or exceeded expectations, and the massive Penasquito project is halfway to completion.
I think Goldcorp is ready to hit its stride, and I'm changing my tune from the cautious bull pitch that fellow Fool Rich Smith put forth last week. I still prefer somewhat smaller-scale miners like Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC ) at this juncture, but Goldcorp's shine has certainly caught my eye.
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Fool contributor Christopher Barker captains yachts and writes about stocks. He can also be found acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username Sinchiruna. He owns shares of Silver Wheaton and Kinross Gold. The Motley Fool has a gilded disclosure policy.