Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
As the stock market once again hit record-high levels, the gold market managed to stage a key advance. Spot gold finished up almost $9 to close at $1,206, managing to climb back above the $1,200 despite posting its worst year in decades. Even with a 0.6% gain today, the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEMKT:GLD) plunged 29% in 2013, mercifully ending a year that broke the spirit of many bullish metals investors. Platinum and palladium kept up their run of relative outperformance, climbing about 1% each, but silver was the lone laggard, falling to about $19.45 per ounce as the iShares Silver Trust (NYSEMKT:SLV) fell three-quarters of a percent and closed the year with a 36% decline.
Gold-mining stocks put in even better performance than bullion, with Goldcorp (NYSE:GG) and Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) both posting gains of between 3% and 4%. Hopes that gold prices can finally reverse course and rise in 2014 appeared to drive enthusiasm for mining stocks, but one thing to remember is that the drop in gold prices could force many miners to make further accounting adjustments to reflect the reductions in their mining assets' values. With Barrick and other companies using gold-price assumptions that aren't necessarily updated to current market conditions, the big question is whether the substantial drops in the stocks during 2013 already reflect expectations that the companies will write down their asset values for accounting purposes. If not, miners could have further to fall in the coming earnings season.
Even silver-mining stocks put in solid gains, with Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) leading the way with a 5% gain. Silver investors hope that the industrial aspects of the metal's use could help silver outperform gold in 2014. But in the interim, Hecla and its peers will have to weather low prices, and the resulting downward pressure on profits could create landmines in the silver-mining industry that investors must remain prepared to face.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter: @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.