With the price of gold having fallen 5 percent since late September, individual investors have begun selling shares of mutual funds holding gold-mining stocks, according to data gathered for Money magazine's Small Investor Index.

Since peaking at $397.50 an ounce on Sept. 28, gold prices have drifted down below $380 an ounce. Rising interest rates, which boost dealers' cost of holding bullion in inventory, and the prospect of continued low inflation have dimmed the metal's luster, analysts say.Several large fund companies report heavy gold fund withdrawals. For example, investors took a net $64.7 million out of the $397 million Fidelity Select Precious Metals & Minerals fund from Oct. 1 through Dec. 15. The $175 million United Services World Gold fund had withdrawals of $25 million during that period, while the $198 million Invesco Strategic Gold fund saw $62 million depart. All three funds had enjoyed net inflows in September.

Many analysts see gold prices dipping further.

"Gold could sink to $360 an ounce because of rising interest rates, low inflation and a surplus of supply over demand," said Philip Gotthelf, editor of the Commodities Futures Forecast in Guttenberg, N.J. He adds that stocks of gold-mining companies may not fall as sharply as bullion prices. "Many mines have lowered their cost of production to about $200 an ounce, so they can still be extremely profitable with gold near current prices."

Last week the Money Index, which tracks the typical investor's holdings, gained $484 to $47,482. Stocks rose $378, and bonds added $89. CDs and money funds chipped in $12, and gold increased $2.