Market Minute: Investors Rush Away From Gold; Earnings Parade

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Stocks suffered their biggest loss of 2013 yesterday, and gold plunged to its lowest level in two years. The Dow Industrials tumbled 265 points, the S&P 500 slid 36 and the Nasdaq dropped 78 points.

We're watching mining and gold stocks again today. Freeport McMoRan (FCX) and Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) could recover some of yesterday's losses; both plunged 8 percent.

Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) has reversed course and now says it will reimburse the U.S. for the cost of Coast Guard aid to help its Triumph and Splendor ships, both of which were disabled by fires.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean (RCL) is expected to unveil details of the latest ship in its fleet. The Quantum of the Seas will carry 4,100 passengers when it sets sail next year. Royal Caribbean is hoping to benefit from the series of mishaps involving Carnival.

Leading today's earnings parade: Coca-Cola (KO). Its net edged past expectations, and volume shipments rose a bit more than expected.

Goldman Sachs's (GS) earnings rose seven percent, also topping expectations. After the close today we'll get results from tech giants Intel (INTC) and Yahoo (YHOO).

Shares of HCA (HCA) are likely to slide. The healthcare operator warns that sales will fall short of expectations. It says growth in hospital admissions has slowed.

JCPenney (JCP) tapped its credit line for $850 million dollars, giving it enough cash for day-to-day operations as its new/old CEO tries to reverse the steep slide in sales. And Bloomberg reports the company may borrow against its real estate holdings to raise more cash. Analysts say these moves suggest that Penney sales are off to a bad start this year.

And Plains All-American (PAA) is building a pipeline to bring 200,000 barrels a day of oil from the Permian Basin in West Texas to the refineries near Houston. The company will invest up to $375 million in the project.

–Produced by Drew Trachtenberg

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Market Minute: Investors Rush Away From Gold; Earnings Parade

What's involved: You can buy gold bars or coins from coin dealers across the country. Many coin dealers have online businesses that will ship gold directly to your home.

Pros: You have the gold in your possession, avoiding any risk of third-party misconduct that other methods of investing in gold entail. Some investors enjoy the coin-collecting aspect of gold bullion coins.

Cons: You'll pay a markup to the current spot price to buy physical gold and might have to accept a discount when you sell it back. Also, you have to find and pay for a safe place to store your gold.

What's involved: Some coin dealers offer pool accounts, which allow you to buy gold but arrange to have it stored with the dealer rather than taking delivery. At any time, you then have the option either to sell the gold back or arrange to have the dealer send you a physical coin or bar corresponding to your pool-account position.

Pros: You have all the benefits of owning gold, but the dealer remains responsible for its care. You avoid dealing with shipping and insurance costs and have the assurance that it's held in a secure facility. The premiums for buying and discounts for selling also tend to be smaller than with physical gold.

Cons: To take possession of the gold, you'll have to pay shipping costs and other fees. You also have to trust that the dealer running the pool account will take all necessary steps to protect it from theft or other dangers.

What's involved: Gold futures contracts allow you to buy the right to take delivery of gold at a specified future date. Futures contracts tend to track the changing spot price of gold, paying you profits when prices rise and losing money when they fall. Most futures investors sell back the contract before it expires, never taking delivery of the physical gold underlying the contract.

Pros: You get the potential financial benefits of owning gold without worrying about storing it. You also don't have to come up with the full value of the underlying gold, as futures contracts require only a small margin balance covering a fraction of the gold's total value.

Cons: Futures contracts are only available through specialized brokerage accounts, and there are commissions involved. Most futures contracts may provide too much exposure, as a standard contract corresponds to 100 ounces, worth about $140,000 at current prices. You may have that much in your portfolio to invest, but putting it all into gold futures could give you too much exposure to one commodity.
What's involved: Exchange-traded funds like SPDR Gold (GLD) own vast holdings of gold bullion. Each share of SPDR Gold has a value of just under a tenth of an ounce of gold, and those shares rise and fall with the price of gold bullion.

Pros: Gold ETFs take responsibility for storage and protection of the gold in their possession, saving you the hassle and cost of owning physical gold.

Cons: Although many gold ETFs own physical gold, some gold ETFs use derivatives rather than bullion to track changing gold prices. For those ETFs, you run the risk that the derivatives involved won't move in lockstep with gold prices, potentially causing you to miss out on a gold-price increase.
 

What's involved: Hundreds of public companies mine gold. When gold prices rise, they earn more for the gold they produce, tying their value to that of the yellow metal itself.

Pros: Unlike other investments, mining stocks can actually produce income. Some miners even pay dividends to shareholders.

Cons: Mining stocks don't always track the price of gold, as other factors such as labor disputes and production costs can cause miners to suffer financial difficulties even when gold prices are high. Lately, gold-mining stocks have had far worse returns than bullion due to rising costs and falling profit margins.

 

Each of these five ways to add gold to your portfolio has pros and cons. But if you see the value of having gold among your investments, they're all worth considering to give you the gold exposure you want.

 

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