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3 ASX 200 gainers and 3 losers over the past 3 months

Near the end of November and with the first quarter of 2014 behind us, how have ASX 200 companies been faring? Retailers have had promising signs of sales increases leading up to the holiday season, banks have had solid earnings, and the mining industry is still adjusting to lower commodities prices and a high Aussie dollar.

Amongst these companies over the past three months, which have had the biggest share price increases and falls?  Three of the biggest gainers are in iron ore and infrastructure asset management and development, and three of the biggest losers were in gold.

Gainers

Mount Gibson Iron (ASX: MGX), a Western Australia iron miner and $1.2 billion in market capitalisation, climbed 54%, closing at $1.11. It did have a setback with much higher than average operating expenses in 2013, reducing earnings, but still came in with record revenue, and net profit after tax and abnormals was $157 million. Higher iron ore prices have boosted its prospects, and production for 2014 is projected to be around 9-9.5 million tonnes.

Atlas Iron (ASX: AGO) is also enjoying the higher iron ore prices, in addition to increasing its production as well. In its September quarterly report, it shipped a record amount of 2.4 million tonnes, and is on track to meet its projected 9.8-10.3 million tonnes for FY2014. Its share price has risen by about 52% over the past three months, and closed at $1.20.

In third place is Transfield Services (ASX: TSE) with a rise of 49% over the period. A provider of maintenance and project management services for infrastructure developments, its business segments of infrastructure services and resources and energy are 38% and 40% respectively, so when the mining industry is waning, the company has exposure to government projects and telecommunications installation such as the NBN. It closed at $1.28 per share.

Losers

Gold prices have fallen off from a peak of US$1,433/oz in September, and a number of the gold miners are coming in near the bottom of the list. Currently the spot price is US$1,238.

Resolute Mining (ASX: RSG), a gold miner and explorer with operations in Australia and Africa, has gone down 58% over this three-month period, from $1.14 in August to $0.47 currently. In its September quarterly activities report, it projected an all-in-sustaining cost of $1,175/oz for FY2014.

Medusa Mining (ASX: MML) is a gold and copper producer and explorer in the Philippines, and its share price is down 36.7% over the past three months to $1.77. Recently, it has been having problems with commissioning a new mill, and this has limited production, and it remains to be seen how this will affect December quarterly production.

Northern Star Resources (ASX: NST) is at $0.65 a share, down 35% over the last 3 months. This WA gold miner has an all-sustaining cost of $1,016/oz. Once it started turning a profit in 2011, it has steadily grown its net profit after tax for the last two years, but the falling gold price in September has affected prospects.

Foolish takeaway

These gainers and losers show you how fortunes can change pretty quickly. Single asset commodity plays can move up and down in surprising fashion, so investors should protect themselves from sudden drops by seeking out diversified producers that can smooth out an abrupt change in any one product.

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Motley Fool contributor Darryl Daté-Shappard does not own shares in any company mentioned. 

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