NEW YORK ( TheStreet ) -- Gold prices are conquering new highs, and investors without exposure to the precious metal may be wondering where to start.

Gold stocks are a risky but potentially profitable way to buy gold. The stocks can offer as much as 3:1 leverage, but picking the right ones is tough.

Many investors who aren't stock pickers opt for the Market Vectors Gold Miners ( GDX), a basket of diversified large mining companies, as a safer bet. Shares have risen 16% year-to-date while gold prices are up 13.6%.

Before buying the ETF, it makes sense to drill down on the top 5 stocks in the fund.

Here's a look at the basic financials on each company, how the stocks have performed of late, and Wall Street's opinion of where the shares are headed.

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