What happened

Shares of silver and gold miner Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) rose just shy of 15% in February according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The price increase wasn't smooth, with big spikes toward the beginning and end of the month that were followed by a drop-off in the share price. The notable monthly gain was largely the result of the second big price spike, which occurred toward the end of February.

So what

At a base level, Hecla's top and bottom lines are driven by the price of the commodities it produces. And since precious-metals miners' results are leveraged to these commodity prices, their stocks tend to rise more than the metals they produce (and can fall more, as well). So, in some ways, Hecla's price moves this month were really driven by the price moves of silver, which is an important piece of its production mix. Silver prices jumped early in the month and again late in the month. Hecla's stock followed that trend, but with a more pronounced price increase. Although both the metal and Hecla's stock quickly turned around after each price spike, the second uptick was at the end of the month. February basically ended while the price was still materially higher, even though it was off its peak. The stock continued to trace the gain in early March.  

A miner holding up a silver nugget.

Image source: Getty Images.

That said, Hecla reported earnings during February and they were pretty good reading. Some of that is directly related to notable increases in the price of silver and gold over the past year. This helped Hecla generate nearly $90 million in free cash flow in 2020 after burning cash in 2019. However, there was good news on the operational front as well, with strong performance at key assets. Equally important, Hecla expects 2021 to be a good year production-wise, too. So while the price of silver and gold are big drivers of performance, there's still a solid underlying story here at the operating level.  

Now what

The ups and downs in Hecla Mining's stock in February underscore the inherent volatility in the precious metals space. It is not a great idea to try to time these often extreme price moves. It's probably better for long-term investors to view precious metals and the companies that mine for them as diversification tools. The goal is to own a small amount of these assets at all times to help stabilize the performance of your overall portfolio.

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.