By Jon C. Ogg, 24/7 Wall St.

Whether we are in a good bubble remains a question, but shares of many miners and producers are trading above analysts' price targets, according Thomson Reuters.

To find out which stocks can earn investors money ahead, we looked at more than 40 gold stocks, including Barrick Gold ( ABX), Gammon Gold ( GRS), Goldcorp ( GG), IAMGOLD ( IAG), Jaguar Mining ( JAG), Royal Gold ( RGLD) and Yamana Gold ( AUY). Investors who prefer not to take on individual company risk can also look at exchange-traded funds, such as Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF ( GDX) and then the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF ( GDXJ). We looked at companies with markets caps of at least $500 million that are actively traded and have five or more analysts covering them.

When it comes to gold stocks, there are many factors to consider when picking companies. Most are foreign or profiting from foreign operations. There are potential labor and safety issues, and political unrest can be a problem as companies generally have to work in many hostile areas. There is also an ongoing currency risk for international operations, though gold is at least generally valued in dollars.
More from 24/7 Wall St
Dueling Opinions Flare on Sirius XM at 52-Week Highs
Costco's Magnificent Recovery
HP To Launch New Handsets Into Jaws of Competive Market

The greatest risk is also the easiest to guess and the hardest to pick: the price of gold today versus a year and two years out. If gold rises to $2,000 per ounce as Jim Rogers suggests, stock-picking skills will matter less when it comes to undervalued or underperforming names. If gold ends up being a huge asset bubble and rapidly falls to $1,000 per ounce, stock picking also won't matter. Rising tides lift all ships, receding tides beach all ships.

Barrick Gold has the biggest by market cap in our universe and it seems odd that the biggest is also trading at a discount when the gold market is still on fire. At $47.32, its 52-week trading range is $33.65 to $48.02. With a $46.6 billion market cap, this Canadian giant is listed as having an average price target of $55.13. The implied upside potential here is about 16%, implying a whopping additional $7.5 billion in market cap.

Gammon Gold has also been in trouble, partly over a mine strike. Its shares are trading at $6.99 versus a 52-week trading range of $5.09 to $12.63. The stock's consensus target is $8.34, although that used to be higher. Its market cap is $967 million and seven analysts have price targets. The implied percentage gain here is more than 19% if the target objective is hit.

Goldcorp is the giant and at $44.09 it has a $32 billion market cap. Its 52-week trading range is also $32.84 to $47.41. The Canadian-based international gold miner and producer has an average analyst price target of $52.32 from more than 15 analysts, but it is worth noting that there are some old leftover targets that have not been updated (one is listed as being as low as $25). The median target is $54.14, but the implied upside in the shares to $52.32 leaves more than 18% upside potential to the mean target (and 22% to the median target).

IAMGOLD is one of the larger gold companies trading at a discount to analysts' price targets, with its $6.6 billion market cap. At $17.75, the 52-week range is $12.19 to $21, and the consensus price target from more than 10 analysts is $23.27. The lowest target is still $18, but the consensus target implies upside potential of about 31%.

Jaguar Mining has been in trouble and it has fewer analysts than covering it. The consensus price target is still north of $12.50. The upside potential may also be tied to a lack of analyst reduction to price targets.

>>Also: 7 Vulnerable Gold Stocks to Sell

Royal Gold is another one of the gold stocks that has lagged peers this year. The company also invests in mining interests and royalties rather than acting as a miner and producer on its own. At $50.57 with a $2.8 billion market cap (and only about 20 employees), the average price target from the seven analysts that have targets is listed as nearly $59 and the lowest target is $55. Either way, that implies 10% to 17% gains.

Yamana Gold is another larger player with an $8.7-billion market cap. At $11.73, its 52-week trading range is $9.16 to $14.37. The average target is $14.03 from more than 15 analysts with price targets, and the lowest estimate is $11.50. That implies almost 20% upside potential.

Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF hit a 52-week high on Tuesday. At $57.26, the 52-week range is $39.48 to $57.83. The Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF closed at $34.66 and the 52-week range is $21.18 to $34.82.

-- Written by Jon C. Ogg of 24/7 Wall St.

You can join our free daily email distribution list to hear more about dividend trends, analyst upgrades and downgrades, top day trader and active trader alerts, news on Buffett and other investment gurus, IPOs, secondary offerings, private equity, and more.
24/7 Wall St. is an independent financial news and and opinion Web site focused on the U.S. and global equity markets. The site covers topics ranging from stock and sector news and market commentary to financial analysis and industry research. 24/7 Wall St.'s articles are published by the leading financial networks, including TheStreet, Marketwatch, AOL's Daily Finance, Morningstar, Smart Money and Yahoo! Finance.