Gold price weakness still hurting African Barrick

2013 wasn't a great year for gold bugs - in fact, it was pretty dire.

Tapering in the US and overspending when prices were high meant the yellow metal suffered a 28 per cent decline in price - the largest fall since 1981.

The FTSE Gold Miners index fell 55 per cent during the year.

Research group Capital Economics has said that expectations are now so low that risks in 2014 are towards the upside.

Tanzanian-based African Barrick Gold has been feeling tumbling prices.

Last week, Deutsche Bank dropped its price target on shares, while Numis cut its rating to "sell" on Monday. Liberum Capital has maintained its 147p target, but cut the company from "hold" to "sell".

Canaccord has said that it thinks the miner is currently fully valued, downgrading it to "hold".

But other analysts have been more upbeat on the miner. Following an encouraging exploration update from African Barrick this morning, Westhouse Securities commented:

It is encouraging to see exploration success, especially surrounding its current resources at Bulyanhulu [in Tanzania].

With a number of potential growth projects effectively on hold, being able to add potentially mineable ounces at current projects would be a positive result for the company.

Westhouse has maintained its "neutral" recommendation with an 170p target price.

Meanwhile, Charles Gibson, an analyst at Edison Investment Research said:

While the grades intersected are impressive, probably more significant is the fact that African Barrick is once again confident enough to talk about its expansion projects… it is perhaps indicative of the first rays of sunshine returning to a sector that has suffered a nine month polar winter.

But although 2014 may well see things looking up for some miners - with iron ore prices marching much higher than expected - those in gold are definitely not out of the woods yet.

Last year, gold stocks fund managers could have lost up to two third of their clients' money, reports Reuters. This year, they're looking to pick firms that can bear sliding prices, although few believe there are more than a handful that can.

Speaking to Reuters, the manager of BlackRock's Gold and General fund(which ranked fifth worse in the Morningstar list) said there's no escape for miners that don't plan ahead:

They need to be more disciplined about the ounces they produce. If they are not going to make a rate of return in mining per ounce, then leave it in the ground. Wait for a day when there is a better gold price.

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