Gold Today: Spot Prices Fall Below $1,200 Even As Freeport, Barrick Climb

Gold Today: Spot Prices Fall Below $1,200 Even As Freeport, Barrick Climb

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.

Today's story was a sadly familiar one for gold investors, as gains in the stock market translated to losses in the yellow metal's price. Spot gold prices fell about $5 to $1,199 as of 5 p.m. ET, with the drop below the $1,200 level weighing on sentiment in the already battered market. SPDR Gold Shares fell 0.3%, holding just above its lowest levels in three years. Mining stocks took a proportionally bigger hit, with Market Vectors Gold Miners declining 0.7%. Yet for Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and Barrick Gold , the day was somewhat brighter, with both stocks eking out modest gains.

For Freeport, today's big news was that the company agreed to restructure its employment contract with current CEO Richard Adkerson. In exchange for giving up contractual provisions that would have allowed Adkerson to receive more than $100 million in severance or change-of-control payments, Freeport agreed to give Adkerson 1 million shares of restricted stock worth $36 million. Despite Freeport's potential savings of up to $89 million from the move, many investors aren't too happy with the idea of the CEO getting a big payday given the stock's loss of more than 40% since early 2011. Still, Freeport shares gained 0.1% today.

Barrick climbed a more impressive 0.5% after the gold miner agreed to sell its Plutonic gold mine in Western Australia to Northern Star Resources for about $22.4 million. With all-in gold production costs of $1,110 per ounce during the first nine months of 2013, the plunge in gold prices has brought the mine nearly to the brink of unprofitability. Yet for Northern Star, the buy doubles its production and makes it a more viable player in the industry -- at least if prices don't fall much further from current levels.

Looking at smaller miners, the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF fell 1.5%, continuing its typical higher-volatility movements. With many of its components facing more catastrophic consequences from gold's drop, the small-gold-company ETF has the potential either for a huge rebound if gold prices bounce or for even more dramatic drops if gold keeps falling. Even after its terrible performance in 2013, there's no guarantee that small gold mining stocks aren't more value trap than true value even at depressed prices.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger owns shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. You can follow him on Twitter: @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. 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.

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Originally published