Watch stocks you care about
The single, easiest way to keep track of all the stocks that matter...
Your own personalized stock watchlist!
It's a 100% FREE Motley Fool service...
Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
Gold gets most of the attention in the precious-metals group, but on Monday, it was palladium's day to shine. The platinum-group metals both outperformed gold and silver, with palladium gaining $11 to $737 per ounce while platinum climbed $8 to $1,413 per ounce. By contrast, gold finished flat at $1,238 per ounce, although SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEMKT: GLD ) managed to keep its winning streak alive by climbing 0.2% today. Silver prices gained just a few pennies per ounce to $20.17, leaving iShares Silver Trust (NYSEMKT: SLV ) flat on the day.
The day in gold was anything but boring, though, as traders experienced a wild swing in February gold futures that resulted from a trade of 4,200 futures contracts. Those contracts controlled 420,000 ounces of gold worth roughly $520 million at current prices, and prices fell about $30 per ounce and triggered a short-term trading halt. The incident brought various comments from market participants, with some alleging outright manipulation while others pointed to the possibility of ordinary trades from large players liquidating positions quickly.
Mining stocks generally had a decent day, with Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) posting gains of more than 1%. Gold's modest strength in early 2014 has turned some heads among investors, most of whom had expected continued downward pressure after 2013's plunging prices.
But auto sales likely paved the way for strength in platinum and palladium, which are materials that are used in catalytic converters. Ford (NYSE: F ) reported this morning that December sales in China jumped 35%, bringing its gains for the year in China to 49% and outpacing its Japanese rivals by a wide margin. Combined with its 11% gain in U.S. sales during 2013, last year was a great one for autos, and that could add to palladium and platinum demand for the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, it'll be interesting to see if futures regulators look more closely at the turbulence in gold prices today. With the yellow metal at an important inflection point, the stakes are especially high for traders hoping for price moves in either direction.
Get into commodities
Precious metals have suffered lately, but record oil and natural gas production is revolutionizing the United States' energy position. Finding the right plays while historic amounts of capital expenditures are flooding the industry will pad your investment nest egg. For this reason, the Motley Fool is offering a comprehensive look at three energy companies set to soar during this transformation in the energy industry. To find out which three companies are spreading their wings, check out the special free report, "3 Stocks for the American Energy Bonanza." Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free.