Gold mining stocks surged Thursday in premarket trading as the price of the metal post big gains and markets were encouraged by prospects that Greece's prime minster might resign.

An exit by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou would sharply reduce prospects of a Greek referendum on whether to accept bailout money, something Papandreou announced earlier this week.

That announcement threw Europe into confusion and raised the prospect that debt-plagued Greece would default on its obligations and be forced out of the Eurozone.

Papandreou was uniformly criticized by top European leaders - including members of his own cabinet -- and early Thursday the BBC reported that he was expected to offer his resignation.

Markets responded quickly. On the Comex, gold shot up 1.5 percent to $1,754.9.

European stocks soared, with France's CAC 40 index adding 2.5 percent and Germany's CAC index up 1.9 percent.

The euro rose against both the dollar and the yen.

Stocks of gold mining companies were rising in premarket trading.

Barrick Gold Corp., the world's largest gold mining company, climbed 1.46 percent. Goldcorp Inc. was up 1.2 percent, Newmont Mining Corp. added 1.47 percent, Kinross Gold Corp. increased 2.1 percent, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. jumped 2.3 percent, Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd. picked up 1.7 percent, Yamana Gold Inc. added 2 percent, Eldorado Gold Corp. rose 1.8 percent and Randgold Resources Ltd. increased 1.6 percent.