As gold prices rise, gold companies can make more for every ounce of gold they produce, but their net profits depend on their cash costs, how much it costs them to produce an ounce of gold. Those factors vary from company to company and are subject to currency issues, energy costs and geopolitical factors.
Another factor to consider when picking gold stocks is how quickly the company will benefit from higher prices. Randgold Resources (GOLD - Get Report), a miner in Africa, is almost 100% correlated to gold prices. CEO Mark Bristow says that the company benefits from gold prices in almost two days.
There are many ways to invest in gold if prices head to $1,300 or slip back to $1,100. An investor can own gold for leverage, safety or hard cash, but regardless, many traders call gold a portfolio must.
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-- Written by Alix Steel in New York.