Falling Prices Hit Molycorp

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I've been saying for more than a year that when Molycorp's (NYS: MCP) mine finally comes online, the impact on prices would be huge. The market has agreed, and just when Molycorp is ramping up to begin real production, prices are falling out from underneath it. But for now, results are looking promising.

In the first quarter of 2012, revenue jumped 221% to $84.5 million, and the company reported a loss of $6.3 million or $0.07 per share. Excluding one-time items, the company says it had a profit of $0.18 per share, topping estimates.

But while the market is enamored with these results, I'm watching the price of Molycorp's products plummet.


Look out below
An increase in average selling price from $38 per kg to $95 per kg sparked the increase in revenue, and if you read news reports, you might think prices are going up quickly. But the truth is that prices have begun to come down to earth from their once-lofty highs. Since topping out at an average selling price of $131.19 in the third quarter of 2011, prices have fallen dramatically, before major production even begins. Let's look at the selling price of three of Molycorp's biggest products, showing the decline we've seen recently.

Product

Q1 2012

Q4 2011

Q1 2011

Didymium Products$159$197$98
Lanthanum Products$49$59$23
Cerium Products$38$63$66
Subtotal REO Equivalent$95$124$38

Source: Company press releases.

I like the profits Molycorp is spitting out right now, but it's this drop in prices that has me worried.

Prices put pressure on industry
The increase in supply hitting the market will put pressure on companies that hope to be the next Molycorp. Avalon Rare Metals (NYS: AVL) and Rare Element Resources (NYS: REE) have seen their stock prices plunge in the past year over concerns they won't live up to lofty expectations. If prices fall, I don't see these stocks faring any better.

To buy or not to buy?
Molycorp has done a nice job lining up downstream demand, so the only question outstanding is where prices go. I think this is a risky time to buy into this stock, because prices will probably continue to fall as the company ramps up production. I'll wait out the results and see what the company looks like in a quarter or two before making any big conclusions.

Interested in reading more about Molycorp? Add it to My Watchlist, and My Watchlist will find all of our Foolish analysis on this stock.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorTravis Hoiumhas no position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at@FlushDrawFool, check out hispersonal stock holdings, or follow his CAPS picks atTMFFlushDraw. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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