$1,500 Gold May Do More Harm Than Good

Yesterday marked gold's first official ascent over the $1,500 mark. While this was enough to get precious metal enthusiasts roaring to their feet, it has other companies and sectors cringing in horror.

Gold is often seen as the ultimate safe haven in times of uncertainty, but what investors usually forget is that gold has a lot of practical uses beyond just holding it as a physical asset. Gold is used in smaller amounts in the circuitry present in satellites. It also makes an excellent conductor of electricity and is the reason that nearly all cell phones, PDAs, GPS devices, and calculators will use gold to some degree.

However, these devices make up a relatively small amount of gold usage. If gold were to continue to move higher, the companies manufacturing these products likely wouldn't feel too much of a margin pinch. There are however two sectors of the market that stand to suffer if the price of gold continues to march higher.

The yellow brick road ... of potholes
No irony is lost on the prospect that higher gold prices could portend trouble for the jewelry sector. Although consumer spending data released last month indicated that consumer spending rose at a 4% annual rate based on the last three months of 2010, gold prices are rising at a significantly faster pace. Jewelry stores have never had an issue raising prices, but it's seeming increasingly possible that as prices for their products rise, buying may simply dry up.

Most at risk in this sector will be those jewelers who are already leveraged to the brim. Zale (NYSE: ZLC  ) , with more than $350 million in net debt, could struggle while more cash-rich chains like Signet Jewelers (NYSE: SIG  ) hurt to a lesser degree. I would even lump Blue Nile (Nasdaq: NILE  ) onto the list of potential problem companies. Blue Nile began selling gold mountings in addition to loose diamonds a few years back and it runs the risk of being unable to pass these rising costs onto consumers.

An expensive cavity
A sector which indirectly could see sales slump is dental equipment providers. Dental laboratories and dentists themselves use gold for a variety of purposes, ranging from fillings to crowns or even a full bridge of teeth. As the cost of gold rises, dentists and their patients are going to be forced to make the call to either pay higher price points or simply opt for a cheaper material.

Dental equipment suppliers DENTSPLY International (Nasdaq: XRAY  ) and Sirona Dental Systems (Nasdaq: SIRO  ) could find their orders more sluggish if dentists are forced to cut back on equipment purchases directly related to shrinking margins. For a company like DENTSPLY this could be a problem, especially since it trades at an aggressive PEG ratio of 1.68.

This is just a preliminary look at what $1500 gold could mean to sectors worldwide, but apparently all that's gold is not glittering.

What's your take on rising gold prices? Do these sectors have cause for concern? Share your opinion in the comments section below and consider adding these companies and your own personalized portfolio of stocks to your watchlist. Add Zale, Signet Jewelers, Blue Nile, DENTSPLY International and Sirona Dental Systems to your watchlist.

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. The only filling he's ever had came from the inside of a Twinkie. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong. Blue Nile is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers choice. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that 5 out of 5 dentists recommend.


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