Stocks of large gold mining companies followed the rising price of the precious metal higher Monday as investors sought a safe place to put their money while the Eurozone and the United States sort out debt problems that have been hammering most equities.

Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp. (USA), with a market capitalization of $47.8 billion, jumped 4.93 percent, or $2.26, to $48.12. Over the last 52 weeks, its price has ranged from $42.23 to $55.74.

Canada's Goldcorp Inc. (USA), which has extensive Latin American operations and a market capitalization of $39.54 billion, climbed 5.65 percent to $48.96, roughly the middle of its 52-week range of $39.04 to $56.20.

U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp. jumped 5.04 percent, or $2.74, to $57.15, about $5 off its 52-week low.

Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd., a Canadian company with global exploration and production activities, rose 5.2 percent to $59.28, near its 52-week low of $54.19.

Just before midday Monday the price of gold in New York had risen 2.31 percent, or $39.42, to $1,703.12, a new nominal high.

The S&P 500 index, meantime, fell 3.12 percent, or 37.44, to 1,161.94 in response to Standard & Poor's downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt Friday and its one-notch cut on Monday of Freddie Mac's and Fannie Mae's long-term ratings. S&P cited the two government-sponsored entity's dependence on the U.S. government as a key reason for the cut.

The Dow Jones industrial average collapsed 319 points to 11,124 while the Nasdaq composite sank 97 points to 2,433.

In Europe, meanwhile, the European Central Bank worked to shore up the deteriorating finances of Italy and Spain. London's FTSE index was down 3.39 percent to 5,068.95. Other European bourses were similarly down for the day.

Shares of big gold miners may continue to benefit as the price of gold rises. In a report issued last week Goldman Sachs forecast the price of gold rising in three months to $1,730 per Troy ounce and in six months hitting $1,860.