Barrick's Tarnished Gold

Sometimes even the tastiest meals are difficult to stomach. If you have an aversion to certain ingredients, or you just don't like the presentation, all the flavor in the world won't save the meal. Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX  ) is like that as an investment. I find the "meats" -- gold and copper -- most appetizing. But when the chef tosses in forward hedge contracts, insider selling, and project delays, though, that starts to look to me like a waste.

Barrick delivered respectable earnings this quarter despite a decline in production volume. Its adjusted net earnings of $0.62 per share were 29% better than the year-ago quarter, and the cash costs per ounce of gold production were roughly equivalent to recent results from Goldcorp (NYSE: GG  ) and Newmont (NYSE: NEM  ) at $393. Barrick enjoyed some nice operating leverage thanks to an average realized gold price of $925 per ounce.

Goldcorp and Newmont both delivered solid earnings recently, giving investors viable alternatives among the major gold producers. Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC  ) recently echoed Barrick's forecast for increased M&A activity in the sector, and it also stands to benefit. With so many alternatives, I see no reason for Fools to rush to sit down to the meal Barrick is serving.

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