After trading near record highs for much of the morning, the stock market has reversed course and pushed lower this afternoon, with the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) down a mere eight points as of 2:55 p.m. EDT. Yet for gold investors who hope that bad news for stocks is good news for precious metals, the day has also been disappointing, as gold prices are also down by a modest $4 per ounce or so to rest just above the $1,325 level. Silver was down about a dime to $19.75 per ounce, while platinum fell $3 to $1,435 and palladium was the biggest loser, falling $15 per ounce to $727.
As ugly as those figures are, base industrial metals have also performed horribly recently, and that's where the Dow has some direct and indirect exposure. Alcoa (NYSE:AA) has suffered from the bear market in aluminum for years, and today is no different, with the stock down 0.3% on continuing weakness in the global economy and a lack of demand for the durable lightweight metal needed for construction and other industrial needs. Controversial practices regarding aluminum warehouses have also led investors to doubt the transparency of the market, scaring away potential investment.
How should you play a rebound?
The good news for gold is that after dropping to $1,200 per ounce, the price of the yellow metal has bounced back. That has led some investors to start substituting mining stocks for their direct investments in bullion. David Einhorn, who runs the Greenlight Capital hedge fund, said recently that he had sold off some of the fund's gold holdings after the sell-off in order to buy plunging gold-mining stocks. Given that many miners posted declines that greatly exceeded the drop in bullion, such a play could work out well for Greenlight in the event of a rebound, as miners are likely to bounce back more sharply than the price of the metal itself.
We're seeing that trend play out to some extent today, as the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEMKT:GDX) is up about 0.1% despite the declines in metals prices. Low-cost gold-producers in particular have the best potential for gains, and Yamana Gold's (NYSE:AUY) 0.5% gain today reflects expectations that the company's earnings report tomorrow will give investors hope that better times are ahead.
As with the stock market, though, paying too much attention to daily movements in gold can distract you from the long-term factors affecting the market. Investors need to stay focused on the big picture and follow the most important news, such as changes in the Federal Reserve's monetary policy, in order to keep an informed opinion about gold's place in their portfolios.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. 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.