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Molycorp shares tumble, analyst frets about costs

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Molycorp tumbled to an all-time low Tuesday, after a Stifel Nicolaus analyst cut his earnings estimates for the rare earth mineral company and said its results will continue to be pulled down by high costs.

THE SPARK: Analyst Paul Forward expects the company to incur higher costs in the first half of this year as it ramps up production at one of its key projects, before results improve in the second half of the year.

THE BIG PICTURE: Molycorp has long been working to expand its Mountain Pass open-pit mine in San Bernardino County, Calif., but the process has taken longer than expected, crimping production volumes.

Meanwhile prices for the rare earth minerals it produces have dropped significantly, hurting sales. Rare earth minerals are used in consumer electronics and other products.

Earlier this month Molycorp, based in Greenwood Village, Colo., reported a larger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss and lower-than-expected revenue. The company also has said it expects its results for the first half of this year to come in below the second half of 2012.

THE ANALYSIS: Forward, who kept his "Hold" rating on the stock, said he now expects Molycorp to post a 2013 loss of 70 cents per share. He previously predicted a loss of 45 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expect a loss of 70 cents per share.

For 2014 Forward cut his earnings prediction to 26 cents per share from 51 cents per share. Analysts, on average, expect a profit of 44 cents per share.

THE SHARES: Down 39 cents, or 6.9 percent, to $5.28 in afternoon trading, after hitting an all-time low of $5.23 earlier in the session. Since the beginning of the year, the shares have lost about 45 percent of their value.