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Canada’s miners strong despite economic fears

A worker cleans a freshly produced bar of gold at the Boroo gold mine in Boroo, about 150 km north of the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator in this July 5, 2006 file photo.

NIR ELIAS/REUTERS

It's been a bummer of a week for global growth projections. Not only did the International Monetary Fund shave a few points off its expected growth rates, but some of the first U.S. companies to report quarterly earnings warned of weaker months ahead.

Typically, that would spell bad news for Canada's miners. Yet the sector hasn't given back much of the big gains it's made since last August.

Since peaking in mid-September, the S&P/TSX materials sub-index has only fallen about 2 per cent over the past few weeks. That's pretty solid for a sector that plummeted 27 per cent from early March to mid May when Europe's debt crisis flared up again.

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By contrast, the TSX's energy sub-index is actually faring worse than the miners, dropping about 4 per cent from its September peak.

Of all miners, gold stocks are clearly doing the best. Since early September, seven of the top ten performing mining stocks are gold names, with Centerra Gold leading the charge with a 65-per-cent gain.

Now the naysayers will say this doesn't really mean the miners are in good shape. And they have a point. Gold stocks do better when the global economy is on the rocks. But the base metals miners aren't moving in the opposite direction. They don't have big gains like gold stocks, but they aren't plummeting. In fact, of the ten worst performing stocks over the same period, three still have gains, and three of those with losses are actually gold names.

Will miners stay strong? Who knows. Should Europe's crisis rage again, all bets are off the table. But the big story right now is that no one is fleeing at the first sight of weaker news, and that's a welcome surprise.

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