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Another positive day in the stock market contributed to another down day for most precious metals, with a $3 drop in spot gold prices to $1,242 per ounce corresponding to a 0.2% decline in SPDR Gold (NYSEMKT:GLD). Silver's equally minor nickel-per-ounce drop to $20.20 sent iShares Silver (NYSEMKT:SLV) down 0.1%, but positive moves in palladium and copper hinted at the underlying strength in the economy and the potential for rising demand in industrial metals. Platinum fell $1 to $1,425, but palladium gained $4 to $741.
Interestingly, gold and silver largely shrugged off some minor signs of inflationary pressure, with today's report on the Producer Price Index showing a rise of 0.4%. Even with the gains, though, longer-term inflation seems in check, with year-over-year gains of 1.2% for the overall index and 1.4% for the core rate excluding food and energy. Without much higher inflation rates, investors are unlikely to start worrying enough to use gold as an inflation hedge.
But the good news on the day came from the copper market, which rose to nearly $3.35 per pound today. Solid signs of manufacturing strength pointed to greater demand for copper, and that helped lift shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) by 1.4% and Southern Copper (NYSE:SCCO) by 0.9%. If China continues to see economic growth prospects pick up, then greater demand for copper could translate into even more price gains for the metal.
More generally, mining stocks outperformed bullion, with the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF rising 1.3%. In particular, Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) rose 1.4% as major investor Oldfield Partners called for Anthony Munk, son of founder Peter Munk, to leave the board of directors. Investors are seeing signs of activist moves as positive for stocks generally, signaling a desire to shore up their strength in anticipation of a turnaround in the metals markets. Whether that bounce comes in the short run or not remains to be seen, but after the huge hit that mining stocks have suffered, even the hint of respite is drawing some positive responses from investors.
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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger owns shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. You can follow him on Twitter: @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.