Dispatches From the Road, Part I

In an annual ritual for my family, we are driving halfway across the U.S. over the next week. Our route will take us from winter to summer: We started in chilly and foggy Los Angeles (temperature Saturday morning: 55 degrees Farenheit) and will end in the summer steam at Lake Okoboji in northwest Iowa (temperature today: 95). In addition to relaxation and some mild adventure, the trip offers a steady flow of on-the-ground economic insights -- the kind you simply can't pick up from sitting in an office reading The Wall Street Journal. My posts this week will be a mash-up of observations made along the way, and I hope they'll provide some anecdotal insights into current economic conditions that complement the statistics with which we are bombarded on a daily basis.

Day one was a short hop from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and the route goes past the rare earth mine owned by Molycorp (MCP) in Mountain Pass, Calif. Roughly an hour southwest of Las Vegas, the mine at Mountain Pass has been the site of furious construction activity as Molycorp has prepared to enter full-scale production. As anyone who watches CNBC or reads a newspaper knows, the rare earth space went through a massive price bubble in the 2010-to-2011 period. But, with prices well off the highs, investors may now be wondering if now is the time to jump back in....433 more words left in this article. To read them, just click below and try Real Money FREE for 14 days.

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