With the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, weak global manufacturing data, and the return of the inverted yield curve, recession fears have become more prevalent. As such, the market for traditional safe havens for wealth, such as gold, has seen a major resurgence in the past few months.

Gold prices reached a new high of $1,550.30 per ounce last week, hitting a fresh six-year high before settling back down to $1,508.20 per ounce. Since mid-April, the precious metal's price has gone up by 21.8%. With the potential for gold reaching the $1,600s and higher in the upcoming weeks, now is a good time for investors who haven't already sought exposure to the gold market to consider doing so.

Gold miners are also benefiting from rising gold prices, which increases profit margins as well as their stock prices. With gold reaching new highs not seen in years, many gold companies that have already seen impressive gains so far in 2019 are expected to break out into new highs in the months to come.

Whether you are looking for a steady, high-paying dividend stock or a promising growth stock, there are plenty of opportunities in the gold mining sector. Below are two of the strongest gold companies in the markets that any investor should consider adding to their portfolio.

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1. Barrick Gold Corp

Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD) has had an interesting year so far. While the company had its fair share of media attention as it tried to prevent the Newmont-Goldcorp mega-merger earlier this year, there are plenty of reasons why analysts and investors alike think Barrick is as strong of an investment choice, if not stronger, then its larger rival Newmont-Goldcorp.

Since August, shares of Barrick have risen by 10%, outperforming rival large-cap gold miners as well as beating out the HUI Gold Index, which was up 8.8% in comparison. Since hitting its September 2018 lows, Barrick's stock has risen by 83.5%. Even more impressive is that during this period, Barrick outperformed even the VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF, an index of small-cap and mid-cap gold miners that theoretically should outperform senior miners like Barrick when markets are bullish. Instead, the index has risen by only 48% during that same period.

Recently released Q2 financial results confirmed to investors that Barrick has been doing better than ever. Gold production was reported at 1.35 million ounces for the quarter, a figure that would put Barrick on the high end of its guidance range with projected annual production coming in at 5.1 million ounces. Even more attractive to investors has been the company's consistent efforts to pay off its debt. Back in Q2 2013, Barrick had $13.4 billion in debt, a figure which has fallen to just $3.7 billion as of Q2 2019. With the company planning to sell off some of its non-core assets that don't contribute much to earnings, Barrick's debt could be reduced by another $1.5 billion as the company becomes even more cost-efficient.

Barrick has also continued to report positive free cash flow for the fourth quarter in a row, coming in at $55 million while operating cash flow was reported at a healthy $434 million. What's more, at the time these figures were released, gold was still trading at the $1,300 price range. Assuming prices stay around $1,500, Barrick's Q3 financial figures would see a significant improvement.

2. Agnico Eagle Mines

With a market cap of $14.1 billion, Agnico Eagle Mines (NYSE:AEM) hasn't gotten the attention it should be for its size. While companies like Barrick and Newmont-Goldcorp hog the financial limelight, there is a strong case to be made why Agnico is a strong long-term investment.

Agnico's main mines are located in Northern Europe and the Americas, all of which are performing above estimates. At this rate, the company expects production to reach 1.75 million ounces of gold by 2020, not considering its fully paid pipeline of upcoming projects which could help this figure grow even more.

Another sign of financial health is that Agnico has funded its capital expenditures entirely through its operating cash flow without taking on more debt. Now that total capital expenditures are expected to fall significantly with the completion of its new facilities in Nunavut, Canada, Agnico's management expects the company to see a strong FCF for the rest of the year. 

CEO Sean Boyd said in a conference call with investors:

In the second half of the year, we also expect a decline in our capital spend. In the first half, we spent about $414 million. Based on our forecast, we anticipate in the second half spending a little over $330 million. So combined that decline in capex spending with a stronger cash-generating business with the growth in production, we're in a strong position to generate a free cash flow in the second half of this year.

The remainder of 2019 is expected to be a "turnaround" point for Agnico. Strong output, a promising pipeline of projects, and an increase in projected cash flows are all reasons why investors are right to expect further gains in Agnico's stock price in the upcoming years.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.