What happened

Shares of New Gold (NYSEMKT:NGD) rose as much as 13% today in the latest move during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The stock market has recovered surprisingly quickly from its mid-March plunge, but a backdrop of sour economic data has kept investors nervous. Today, energy markets gave investors reason for pause.

Traders rushed to fill expiring futures contracts for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the primary crude oil benchmark for American petroleum, causing a more than 85% crash in prices. A barrel of WTI crude oil could be purchased on the spot market for less than $1 at one point today. 

That helped to keep gold prices above $1,700 per ounce, which propelled shares of New Gold and its peers higher. As of 2:10 p.m. EDT, the gold stock had settled to a 10.1% gain.

Multiple ascending arrows drawn on a chalkboard.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

New Gold recently provided a first-quarter 2020 operational update. The gold and silver miner withdrew full-year 2020 guidance given the new uncertainty in the market. Gold equivalent production totaled 103,435 ounces during the first three months of this year, compared to 123,263 gold equivalent ounces in the first quarter of 2019. 

The year-over-year production decline was driven by multiple factors, primarily that the first quarter of 2020 included 12 days of a 14-day suspension of operations at the company's Rainy River mine. New Gold restarted production of the asset in early April, although it will take time to ramp up operations.

Investors are hoping higher selling prices for precious metals can help offset production disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic. It should certainly help: Gold prices are 35% higher today than this time last year. And at $1,700 per ounce, gold prices are at their highest level since late 2012. 

Now what

Given the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic, investors should probably expect a steady stream of unprecedented economic data such as, you know, WTI trading for $1 per barrel. That uncertainty could help to keep gold and silver prices at elevated levels indefinitely. However, that may not translate into better performance for gold and silver stocks, which have an awful track record of beating the performance of the S&P 500. Investors shouldn't forget that.

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.