Last Week’s Top Gold Movers: Petropavlovsk PLC, Pan African Resources plc and Kirkland Lake Gold Inc.

Gold swung between losses and gains last week, touching a high of $1,268 per ounce before falling back to end the week just 0.7% higher, at $1,128 per ounce, as investors speculated that this week might be week when the Fed decides to start tapering its monetary stimulus programme.

Of course, the only practical way for most private investors to invest in gold is through exchange-traded funds. The largest gold ETF, the $32bn SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE: GLD.US), ended last week up 0.3% at $119.38, while London-listed Gold Bullion Securities (LSE: GBS) ended the week up 0.3% at $118.78. So far this year, shareholders of Gold Bullion Securities have seen the value of their holdings fall by 27.5%, while the value of SPDR Gold Trust shares has fallen by 26.8%.

Of course, the world’s gold miners are always aiming to outperform the price of gold by increasing their reserves and production and cutting mining costs. Here are three of last week’s biggest winners and losers:

Petropavlovsk (LSE: POG) closed the week up by 8.9% at 60.5p. Although the firm didn’t announce any news this week, the Russia-based gold miner’s share price has been hit by institutional selling pressure recently. Last week’s initial surge in the price of gold appears to have triggered a modest rebound for Petropavlovsk that has taken the firm’s shares back to the level seen in late November and away from last week’s 52-week low of 54p.

Pan African Resources (LSE: PAF) edged up 4.4% to 12.8p last week. Last Monday saw the firm announce the appointment of a new non-executive director, Thabo Mosololi, who is a specialist in corporate governance and audit and has extensive experience in the South African natural resources sector.

Kirkland Lake Gold (LSE: KGI) fell 5% to 138p last week after publishing its half-yearly report, which showed that the firm’s first-half loss increased from C$1.1m last year to C$6.9m during the six months to October 31 2013. Kirkland said that its operating costs fell to C$328 per ton of ore and C$1,104 per ounce of gold during the second quarter, but said that it was targeting further reductions aimed at cutting ore mining costs to C$250 per ton when its current expansion project is completed.

The firms mentioned in this article have all delivered big gains for investors at different points in their histories. The secret to successful growth investing is learning when to buy -- and when to sell -- fast-growing stocks. The Motley Fool's "Millionaire Report" covers this topic and others in depth, and explains how building a life-changing million-pound portfolio may be more realistic than you think. For full details, click here to download your free copy of this exclusive special report, while it's still available.

> Roland does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.