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Wall Street regularly makes promises -- and breaks them just as often. However, when Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) pledges a forward growth trajectory of epic proportions, I believe Fools have ample reason to anticipate a precious promise kept.
Goldcorp delivered precisely the sort of dazzling fourth-quarter earnings performance that I offered as one of five looming catalysts for gold stocks earlier this month. While the market continues to process a wave of similarly stellar results from mid-tier titans Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE: AEM ) and Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) , I encourage investors to take time for a double-take with Goldcorp's latest results.
Goldcorp churned up 689,600 ounces of gold during the fourth quarter of 2010. Thanks to a byproduct cash cost of just $164 per ounce that continues to set the standard among major producers, the miner's immense cash flow of $646.1 million for the period equates to $937 for every single ounce of gold produced!
The revenue statistics are sweeter still, with a 70% increase to $1.32 billion, which represents a phenomenal $1,944 for every gold ounce sold. How is that possible, you may ask, when the company's average realized gold price for the period was $1,378 per ounce? Byproduct credits, primarily for copper and silver production, are providing substantial benefit to miners' cost and cash flow structures, now that prices for these metals have themselves rocketed higher. Those byproduct credits, along with gold's relentless ascent, carried Goldcorp's fourth-quarter margin to $1,214 per ounce.
To the delight of silver stream holder Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW ) , Goldcorp's newly ramped-up Penasquito mine yielded 4.6 million ounces of silver during the fourth quarter. Combined with increased silver output from the Marlin mine, Goldcorp's total silver production reached an astonishing 6.8 million ounces in the fourth quarter alone. For reference, that byproduct silver volume is 2.5 times greater than the 2.7 million ounces produced by Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL ) during the period.
Goldcorp's impressive cost metrics aside, the miner's shining promise of a 60% expansion of gold production over the next five years primarily piques this Fool's investment interest. Goldcorp proved itself a master crafter of deals during 2010, completing six transactions, and deftly outmaneuvering bids by rivals Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) and Eldorado Gold (NYSE: EGO ) in the process. Announcing substantial new discoveries within those and other properties, which yielded a 23% expansion of gold reserves to 60.1 million ounces, Goldcorp's effectively drew a treasure map to the targeted 4 million ounces of annual production by 2015. The company recently doubled its outlook for annual production from the Eleonore project to 600,000 ounces, while construction of the world class Pueblo Viejo joint venture with Barrick continues on schedule.
Having examined each of Goldcorp's multiple development projects in considerable detail, this Fool ascribes a very strong likelihood of success to Goldcorp's aggressive five-year growth plan. Combining that outlook with further anticipated increases in the price of gold -- which CEO Chuck Jeannes relates to "gold's continued reemergence as an essential asset class for investment portfolios" -- I continue to place Goldcorp near the pinnacle of golden opportunities among mining stocks.