After peaking at $1,755 last Friday, gold prices have settled back down to be almost unchanged on pre-Thanksgiving closing prices. Gold on the January contract was up just 0.23% at $1,725 per ounce shortly after U.S. markets opened on Thursday.

Of course, the only practical way for most private investors to invest in gold is through exchange-traded funds. Like gold, the $63 billion SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEMKT:GLD) has given up last week's gains and was up just 0.8% on the last five trading days at $167.26 shortly after U.S. markets opened. London-listed Gold Bullion Securities (LSE: GBS) has performed in a similar fashion, and was up by 0.77% at $166.73 when U.S. trading started. So far this year, Gold Bullion Securities has risen by 9.5%, while the SPDR Gold Trust has gained 10.1%.

Gold's big movers
Many investors prefer to invest in gold mining stocks, rather than gold itself, as gold miners are able to benefit from operational gearing to outperform the price of gold. Let's take a look at some of this week's biggest movers.

African Barrick Gold (LSE: ABG) was up 4.2% to 414 pence earlier today, after confirming the renewal of its North Mara special mining licenses earlier this week. The licenses carry the same conditions as their predecessors and are valid for 15 years. Greg Hawkins, the CEO of ABG, described the renewal as "an important step in providing a stable platform for future investment into one of our core assets." Since acquiring the original licenses in 2000, the North Mara mine in Tanzania has produced more than two million ounces of gold, and has remaining reserves of 3.5 million ounces.

Highland Gold Mining (LSE: HGM) climbed 7.1% to 94 pence this morning, after publishing its latest drilling report, which highlighted strong exploration results from its existing Mnogovershinnoye (MNV) mine in the Khabarovsk region of Russia. Three exploration targets -- Quiet, Pebble, and Watershed -- were subject to a program of diamond drilling and surface trenching, and both the Quiet and Pebble prospects are expected to enhance the existing open pit mining operations at MNV.

Centamin (LSE: CEY) features once again this week and is up 7.5% in today's trading to 60 pence. The troubled Egyptian gold miner issued an update earlier this week confirming that the appeal against its Oct. 30 court judgment is still under way, but that its Sukari mine is operating as usual and will be resuming gold exports shortly now that the appeal has been lodged.

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