Gold Fever Heats Up Precious-Metals Funds

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Investors' fears of another stock decline are stoking gold fever. The spot price of gold broke hit $997.80 an ounce on Thursday, the highest level since February.

Gold has risen 4.6% in the past week. Silver added $1.81 to $16.12 for a one-week surge of 13%. For the week ending Thursday, the average precious metals fund we track popped 7.6%.

The best-performing precious metals fund this week is the ProShares Ultra Silver ( AGQ), which tracks the U.S. price of silver in London with 200% leverage. This exchange traded fund skyrocketed 27%.

The Precious Metals UltraSector ProFund ( PMPIX), a mutual fund, was the No. 2 fund with a 16% gain. The fund tracks the Dow Jones Precious Metals Index with 150% leverage. It benefited from large holdings of Barrick Gold ( ABX), Goldcorp ( GG), Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold ( FCX) and Newmont Mining ( NEM).

If you prefer unleveraged funds, take a look at the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF ( GDX), which tracks the Amex Gold Miners Index. The index's top performers of the past week included Vista Gold ( VGZ), up 31%; IAMGOLD ( IAG), up 22%; Golden Star Resources ( GSS), up 21%; and Northgate Minerals ( NXG) up 19%.

Best Performing Precious Metals Funds for the Week Ending Thursday Sept. 3
Fund (Ticker) Rating Fund Type 1 Wk Tot'l Return
ProShares Ultra Silver (AGQ) U ETF 27.02%
ProFunds Precious Metals UltraSector ProFund (PMPIX) E- Open-End 16.03%
PowerShares DB Silver Fund (DBS) D ETF 13.16%
ETFS Silver Trust (SIVR) U ETF 13.10%
Market Vectors - Gold Miners ETF (GDX) C- ETF 12.84%
E-TRACS UBS Bloomberg CMCI Silver ETN (USV) D ETN 12.81%
iShares Silver Trust (SLV) D ETF 12.71%
American Century Global Gold Fund (BGEIX) C+ Open-End 12.17%
OCM Mutual Fund - OCM Gold Fund (OCMGX) C+ Open-End 11.94%
Midas Fund (MIDSX) E Open-End 11.89%
Source:Bloomberg & TheStreet.com Ratings

The U.S. Dollar Index, which is down this year, has another 10% left to fall to keep pace with 2008 lows. Efforts to stimulate the economy are contributing to a weak dollar versus the euro, a trend that would help sustain gold's long-term rise.

The U.S. economy lost another 216,000 jobs in August, boosting the unemployment rate to a 26-year high of 9.7%, the Labor Department said today. That means stimulus efforts are likely to continue, and a new low for the dollar may trigger the spot price of gold to blast past the March 21, 2008, high of $1032.70.

For more information, check out an explanation of our ratings.

-- Reported by Kevin Baker in Jupiter, Fla.

Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by TheStreet.com, covering mutual funds. He joined the Weiss Group in 1997 as a banking and brokerage analyst. In 1999, he created the Weiss Group's first ratings to gauge the level of risk in U.S. equities. Baker received a B.S. degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. with a finance specialization from Nova Southeastern University.

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