NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In my last gold update, I didn't receive one negative comment. I found it surprising because normally I receive blowback from gold perma-bulls using comments to explain my egregious errors of concluding that gold prices have peaked.
I trade gold primarily in two ways: I track the S&P Gold Trust ETF (GLD) and own physical gold at times (not currently). I cut my trading teeth trading gold futures, but since I moved to a focus on equities, I find the GLD works well for me. Investing and trading in gold doesn't have to be overly complicated.
So much focus is placed on the Federal Reserve's actions, and in my opinion, it's largely misplaced. Sure, the Fed does influence inflation -- no one will question that -- but it's only one factor and not the most decisive factor to consider.
The most influential factor are energy prices. Energy prices trump the Fed and every other influence over the long run. You can track oil prices the same and easy way that I do, through the United States Oil Fund ETF (USO). I'll explain how oil prices influences gold prices and why they are the most important compass to determine the direction of gold prices, but let me touch on gold miners briefly because it ties in together.
The Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) will allow you to quickly compare any given mining company against its peers. You can read 10Ks, and press releases until you're blue in the face, but nothing cuts to the chase like comparing recent stock performance of a miner you may add to your portfolio against the GDX.