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With the prices of gold (GLD) and silver (SLV) off to the races to start 2012, let's check in on the miners' stocks to see if they are keeping pace. A popular exchange-traded fund among investors seeking exposure to mining stocks is the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX), managed by Van Eck Global. As I mentioned in "How Well Do You Know Your Gold Miners ETF?" GDX is not just exposed to companies typically thought of as being appropriate for gold investors but also has exposure to the stocks of companies investors often target for exposure to silver. Silver Wheaton (SLW), Pan American Silver (PAAS), and Silver Standard Resources (SSRI) are three examples of this.

GDX closed 2011 at $51.43. As of January 31, 2012, it stood at $56.46, a 9.78% year-to-date (YTD) return. By comparison, GLD is up 11.40%, and SLV is up 19.82% through January 31. While GDX is lagging gold (IAU) and silver YTD, perhaps investors can take some comfort in the fact that this miners ETF is strongly outperforming the S&P 500's (SPY) 4.36% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average's (DIA) 3.40% YTD returns through January 31.

For investors interested in looking through each individual holding of GDX to see which stocks contributed the most toward returns or acted as the largest drags on the fund, I offer the following table. It includes each company's name, stock ticker, weighting in GDX, 2011 closing price, January 2012 closing price, and the YTD performance (ex-dividends):

Fund holdings as of 1/30/12

YTD Performance through 1/31/12

Holding

Ticker

% of Net Assets

2011 Close

1/31/12 Close

YTD Performance

Barrick Gold

ABX

15.92%

$45.25

$49.26

8.862%

Goldcorp

GG

12.82%

$44.25

$48.39

9.356%

Newmont Mining

NEM

9.80%

$60.01

$61.48

2.450%

AngloGold Ashanti

AU

5.70%

$42.45

$45.80

7.892%

Yamana Gold

AUY

4.99%

$14.69

$17.27

17.563%

Silver Wheaton

SLW

4.94%

$28.96

$35.61

22.963%

Cia De Minas Buenaventura Sa

BVN

4.93%

$38.34

$42.90

11.894%

Randgold Resources

GOLD

4.74%

$102.10

$114.41

12.057%

Gold Fields

GFI

4.65%

$15.25

$16.43

7.738%

Kinross Gold

KGC

4.46%

$11.40

$11.29

-0.965%

Eldorado Gold

EGO

3.86%

$13.71

$15.11

10.212%

Agnico-Eagle Mines

AEM

3.02%

$36.32

$37.40

2.974%

Iamgold

IAG

2.93%

$15.85

$16.74

5.615%

New Gold

NGD

2.46%

$10.08

$11.71

16.171%

Harmony Gold Mining

HMY

2.45%

$11.64

$12.06

3.608%

Royal Gold

RGLD

1.96%

$67.43

$76.12

12.887%

Allied Nevada Gold

ANV

1.57%

$30.28

$35.93

18.659%

Aurico Gold

AUQ

1.24%

$8.01

$9.45

17.978%

Coeur D'Alene Mines

CDE

1.20%

$24.14

$27.66

14.582%

Pan American Silver

PAAS

1.13%

$21.81

$22.88

4.906%

First Majestic Silver

AG

1.00%

$16.84

$20.67

22.743%

Hecla Mining

HL

0.70%

$5.23

$5.26

0.574%

Silver Standard Resources

SSRI

0.66%

$13.82

$17.25

24.819%

Nevsun Resources

NSU

0.63%

$5.53

$6.56

18.626%

Minefinders Corp

MFN

0.54%

$10.60

$14.18

33.774%

Aurizon Mines

AZK

0.42%

$4.93

$5.53

12.170%

Seabridge Gold

SA

0.41%

$16.11

$20.17

25.202%

Great Basin Gold

GBG

0.29%

$0.911

$1.26

38.310%

Golden Star Resources

GSS

0.26%

$1.65

$2.16

30.909%

Tanzanian Royalty Exploration

TRX

0.15%

$2.40

$3.31

37.917%

Vista Gold

VGZ

0.13%

$3.07

$3.77

22.801%

A couple observations from the table:

Fifteen of the eighteen lowest weighted stocks in GDX strongly outperformed the fund. In general, the strongest outperformance was confined to the lower weighted equities, while underperformance was more often found among higher weighted stocks in the fund. Newmont Mining and its number three weighting in GDX is one example. NEM severely underperformed the ETF in January. With that said, there were stocks with higher weightings in the fund that outperformed. Two higher weighted equities that strongly outperformed GDX were Silver Wheaton and Yamana Gold (AUY).

Finally, Kinross Gold was the only stock among the 31 equities in GDX that finished the month in the red, down 0.965%. For KGC, it was a tale of three parts to the month, as it was up 15% YTD on January 12 before falling to down 12.63% YTD just one week later. It then finished the month by climbing 13.35% from the January 19 low. KGC was certainly a trader's paradise in January.

Source: Gold And Silver Miners Off To The Races In 2012

Additional disclosure: I am long gold and silver.