LONDON -- Gold has gradually moved higher since last Friday, and the April futures contract is now up by 0.8% at $1,678.

Of course, the only practical way for most private investors to invest in gold is through exchange-traded funds. The largest gold ETF, the $72 billion SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEMKT:GLD), has gained 0.7% to $162.39 since last Friday's open, while London-listed Gold Bullion Securities (LSE:GBS) has risen 1% to $162.00 over the same period. So far this year, shareholders of Gold Bullion Securities have seen their holdings rise by 1%, while SPDR Gold Trust holders have gained just 0.23%.

Gold's big movers
Many investors prefer to invest in gold mining stocks, rather than gold itself, as gold miners are able to use their operational gearing to outperform the price of gold. Let's take a look at some gold stocks that have gained strongly recently.

Centamin (LSE:CEY) has gained 15% to 61 pence so far this month, as the embattled Egyptian gold miner climbed on rumours that a favorable court ruling on the mining concession for its Sukari gold mine is imminent. However, the ruling has not yet materialised and brokers Westhouse Securities downgraded the company from buy to neutral following a recent site visit, saying that Centamin "remains vulnerable to matters outside of its control."

Shanta Gold (LSE:SHG) is up a further 8% to 22.5 pence so far this month, after it announced that a new major shareholder, Red Kite, had taken a 5.2% stake in the company, which is hoping to increase gold production at its New Luika mine in Tanzania to more than 70,000 ounces in 2013. Shanta's share price has climbed 23% in the last month, thanks to a string of good news.

Harmony Gold (NYSE:HMY) has climbed 9% to $7.15 so far this week. The company, which has a market value of $3.1 billion and is Africa's third-largest gold producer, announced a 28% increase in profits for the final quarter of last year, despite production losses due to the mining strikes in South Africa. Harmony's adjusted earnings per share rose to 1.58 rand per share, 50% higher than consensus forecasts for 1.05 rand per share.

Shares vs. commodities
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Roland Head has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.