An obscure metal used to make steel has become this year’s worst-performing commodity, after China’s stumbling economy and a collapse in the energy industry drove outsized losses.
Molybdenum — that’s mo.lyb.de.num for the uninitiated — is used in many steel building materials and to help harden the drills used to extract oil and natural gas from deep underground.
Prices plunged 49 percent, the most among 79 raw materials tracked by Bloomberg, as the white metal was undermined by the flagging demand and oversupply that plagued global commodity markets throughout 2015.
Use of the metal tumbled 5.1 percent this year, the biggest contraction since 2009, driven by a slowdown in China, the world’s biggest metals and energy consumer, according to Macquarie Group Ltd.
Prices have dropped for eight straight months, the longest slump since 2011, weighing on returns for mining companies including Freeport-McMoRan Inc., the world’s top producer.
“It’s like a poster child for the commodity bear market,” said Paul Christopher, a St. Louis-based head global market strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute, which oversees $1.7 trillion.
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