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.
On Friday, gold managed to post solid gains for the second day in a row, with spot prices climbing $15 per ounce to reach $1,238. Experts pointed to coming events like the Chinese New Year later this month as a potential source of demand for the physical gold market, but concerns about the stock market's poor start to 2014 also likely played a role in pushing the yellow metal's prices higher. SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEMKT:GLD) gained 1.1% in fulfilling its function of tracking bullion prices.
But of some concern was the fact that other metals underperformed gold. In contrast to recent days, silver didn't do as well as its more expensive sibling, as the iShares Silver Trust (NYSEMKT:SLV) gained about 1%, and spot prices rose $0.15 to $20.15 per ounce. Platinum-group metals were mixed, with platinum seeing modest gains of $7 to $1,405 per ounce, while palladium gave up ground, falling $2, to $726 per ounce. Relative weakness in platinum and palladium might have followed the unexpected decline in December auto sales, with automakers representing a huge source of industrial demand for platinum-group metals.
Even more troublesome, mining stocks failed to follow spot gold prices higher. The Market Vectors Gold Miners Index (NYSEMKT:GDX) fell almost 1%, with weakness among individual gold and silver miners across the industry. The conundrum that many mining companies face is whether they should hedge at current weak prices in order to rid themselves of the risk of still lower prices down the road. Given bullion prices that don't give them nearly as much profit potential compared to their costs of production, the temptation to lock in some profit is definitely there. But doing so would cap, or even eliminate, the benefit of rising gold prices for mining-company shareholders.
Looking forward, it will be important to see how producers react to a continued rise in gold and other precious metals prices. At some point, you might see mining companies restarting hedging programs, and if that happens, it could quickly take the wind out of the sails of even this modest gold rally.
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 may not 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.