Stocks continued their upward trajectory during the holiday-shortened trading week despite lackluster U.S. economic data, with both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 hitting record highs as tensions over Cyprus waned and ever more money surged into equities. The S&P 500 closed at 1,569.19, surpassing its previous record of 1,565.15 set in October 2007, while the Dow climbed to a nominal closing high of 14,578.54. The Dow also touched a lifetime intraday high of 14,585.10 on Mar. 28, before the market closed for the Good Friday holiday. (For the month of March, the S&P 500 advanced 3.6% and the Dow 3.7%.) By contrast, the Philadelphia Gold and Silver index slipped 0.9% during the trading week to close at 135.76.
Shares of Randgold Resources surged US$1.70 to US$85.98 after the company reported in its annual report that even after a year of record production, attributable reserves in 2012 increased by 80,320 oz. gold to 16.36 million oz., while the group’s reserve grade rose from 3.84 grams gold per tonne to 3.87 grams gold. The grade improvement was driven primarily by Randgold’s flagship Loulo, Gounkoto and Kibali deposits. The company ended 2012 with US$403 million in cash and gold. CEO Mark Bristow noted that the company continues to explore aggressively across West and Central Africa and intends to expand its footprint through joint ventures with junior exploration companies struggling in currently stressed markets. Its priority is to pour first gold at its Kibali project in the Democratic Republic of Congo before the end of 2013.
Ur-Energy rose 9.4% to US$0.97 per share on news it had sold future production worth US$5.1 million to help pay for construction at its flagship Lost Creek uranium project in Wyoming. The sale to one of its utility customers means the company can avoid diluting shareholders with an equity raise. Construction at the in-situ recovery uranium mine is continuing and the company expects initial production will start later this year.
On the negative side of the ledger, downgrades by analysts at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse sent the shares of Cliffs Natural Resources plunging 12.2% or US$2.65 to end the week at US$19.01. Among other things the analysts expressed concern about the worsening health of the U.S. iron ore market and Cliffs’ pricing power for the metal as new supply emerges in the region.