MINNEAPOLIS (Stockpickr) -- The New Year is only a few weeks old and already certain trends are beginning to take shape. Stocks continue to move higher but with seemingly less conviction. The larger stocks are making most of the gains in 2011, while smaller stocks take a bit of a breather.The vaunted January effect, whereby smaller company stocks outpace their larger brethren, has yet to take hold. The market appears to be waiting for evidence that profit growth can be maintained within a fragile economic framework. That alone is a major shift from the early stages of the bull market when stocks could appreciate on the mere whiff of profit growth. Another interesting trend that is developing is in the gold market. After gold busted through $1,000 per ounce last year, many, myself included, speculated that the next stop would be $2,000. My own thesis hinged on the fact that gold was increasing in value irrespective of the economic facts of the moment. What I mean is that gold tended to increase in value no matter the movement of the economy. If traders believed the economy was strong, gold rallied. The idea was that with a strong economy, inflation would soon follow. Gold would also increase in value when the economy appeared weak. The world-ending scenario combined with stimulus required to pump a failing economy would ultimately devalue currency triggering domestic inflation and higher gold prices. Related: Add Commodity Exposure With These ETFs Gold wins no matter the circumstance -- or so it seemed. But that no-lose proposition is beginning to break this year. Strength in the U.S. economy led to currency appreciation, thus muting the inflationary impact of a falling dollar. Gold traders were more concerned about dollar strength than the longer-term risk of inflation caused by too much economic growth. The price of gold has dropped during the early trading of 2011. A similar situation unfolded in the oil markets. There the action had more to do with technical issues and hedge fund shorting of oil as crude pushed to $100 per barrel. Big dollar traders are not convinced of economic strength and thus sold oil short in response.
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