Face-Off on Stocks: Barrick Gold, Newmont Mining, Goldcorp

Panning for gold
Panning for gold

Gold prices are going gangbusters, setting new records seemingly every other day. The precious metal topped $1,280 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYX) to kick off the week, notching its fourth nominal all-time closing high in the last six sessions.

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There's no shortage of ways to play gold, from holding the physical commodity to gold exchange-traded funds to mutual funds and ETFs comprising gold-mining stocks. But if you're really looking for some action (as well as some potential downside protection), individual gold-mining picks have the best shot to outperform. Not only can they hedge their positions in case the yellow metal's price cools off but individual stocks have the opportunity to outperform a basket of such names.

With that in mind, here's a look at the bull and bear cases for Barrick Gold (ABX) and Newmont Mining (NEM) -- the biggest gold miners in the world -- as well as low-cost upstart Goldcorp (GG).