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Solar Stocks Continue Decline

By Peter Lynch
Exclusively for InvestorIdeas.com
October 03, 2008

The stock market has now slipped well into "official" bear market territory (down more than 20%) and the rest of the world is down, on average over 30%. The press is full of negatives and soon we will see the dreaded "R" word everywhere (recession) in the press. These are surely the times that separate normal investors from "great" investors. I believe it was John D. Rockefeller who once said that, "the way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets."

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If you go out into the street today, especially Wall Street, there is indeed blood running in the streets and the media “experts” are talking of an apocalypse. Keep in mind, however, that most “experts”, who are ALWAYS far behind reality, are pumping up the gloom and doom. Remember, these are the same “experts” that – never saw the bear market looming its head, never saw the recession coming or the nightmare in the housing industry. Yet now, they are fully knowledgeable on the current (far more complex) situation? Forgive me if I harbor doubts. When you start to see "doom" popping up on national magazine covers you can be SURE it has already happened and that the market has more than likely at least partially discounted it.

Amid this general malaise, solar stocks have moved even further to the downside, by roughly 53% since January 2008 versus the general market represented by the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq average of approximately 23.5%. This should be no surprise, since younger companies in emerging industries generally have a much higher BETA's (higher volatility) than the normal more mature stock. Take a look at the numbers below based on prices as of the close on Thursday, 10-2-2008.


Symbol

Company Name

Performance %

AKNS

Akeena Solar, Inc.

-49.0

ASTI

Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc.

-74.6

CSIQ

Canadian Solar Inc.

-41.6

CSUN

China Sunergy Company Ltd.

-58.4

DSTI

DayStar Technologies Inc.

-56

EMKR

EMCORE Corporation

-66.9

ENER

Energy Conversion Devices Inc

 69.6

ESLR

Evergreen Solar, Inc.

-70.8

FSLR

First Solar, Inc.

-33.4

JASO

JA Solar Holdings Co., Ltd

-56.7

LDK

LDK Solar Company Ltd.

-37.7

SOLF

Solarfun Power Holdings Co.

-68.1

SPIR

Spire Corporation

-38.7

SPWRA

Sunpower Corporation

-45.3

STP

Suntech Power Holdings (China) ADR

-62.9

TSL

Trina Solar Limited

-60.1

WFR

MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc.

-72

YGE

Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited (China) ADR

-73.8

 

 

 

 

Common Quoted Indexes

 

 

 

 

DJIA

Dow Jones

-21

SPX

S&P 500

-24.1

NASD

Nasdaq

-25.5

I guess you could say that the bad news is that solar stocks have fallen over two times more than the averages and the good news is that hopefully they are close to a bottom. One thing for sure is that when they do turn up they will move just as fast to the upside as they have to the downside. So far to date, their higher volatility has worked BOTH ways.

Unfortunately, the general weakness of the U.S. stock market and most of the world's stock markets is not helping things. As bad as it is in the U.S. market it has been far worse in foreign markets. Clearly many of the world's markets are also in bear markets: India down 30%, China down 45%, Brazil down 30%, South Korea down 32%, Russia down 33%, Hong Kong down 37% and Japan down 33%.

However, now that we are in this horrible market the best thing to do is to prepare for the time when it turns around to the upside. Keep in mind, that this turn will ALWAYS take place at the darkest hour and when the word "recession" is everywhere.

Remember, in the short term the dominating factors are primarily psychological. In the long term it is always reality.

How can an investor prepare and possibly see the turn in the market when it comes? Well that is certainly something that can very difficult to predict and mostly likely would require some measure of luck. But one of the simplest short term methods I have used over the years to determine trading points for stocks (and the market in general) is the 50-day moving average. To summarize:

  1. If a stock is trading OVER its 50-day moving average it is in an uptrend.
  2. If a stock is trading UNDER its 50-day moving average it is in a downtrend.

As you can see from the chart below, the vast majority of solar stocks (prices as of the close Thursday, 10-2-08) we follow are BELOW their 50-day moving average and ALL of them are in clear downtrends. This certainly tells us that the entire solar sector is in a severe downtrend. The 200-day moving average (also shown below) is a longer term indicator that would NOT be utilized as a short-term trading tool but is more an indicator of how deep a stock has fallen. When the sector does turn up, the stronger stocks will generally turn around and advance first ABOVE their 50-day moving averages — that will be a sign of the turn and traders can make the appropriate moves at that time.


Symbol

Name

Recent Price

50 Day MA

200 Day MA

AKNS

Akeena Solar, Inc.

4.36

4.118

6.153

ASTI

Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc.

6.68

7.862

12.948

CSIQ

Canadian Solar Inc.

19.18

26.951

27.82

CSUN

China Sunergy Company Ltd.

7.54

8.888

9.481

DSTI

DayStar Technologies Inc.

2.97

3.024

3.616

EMKR

EMCORE Corporation

5.37

5.355

8.139

ENER

Energy Conversion Devices Inc

61.77

65.933

47.491

ESLR

Evergreen Solar, Inc.

5.88

7.914

10.037

FSLR

First Solar, Inc.

197.26

246.002

245.397

JASO

JA Solar Holdings Co., Ltd

11.84

14.714

18.571

LDK

LDK Solar Company Ltd.

33.12

39.442

36.966

SOLF

Solarfun Power Holdings Co.

11.57

13.994

16.872

SPIR

Spire Corporation

15.38

10.914

14.672

SPWRA

Sunpower Corporation

77.25

82.354

82.878

STP

Suntech Power Holdings

36.43

38.518

44.974

TSL

Trina Solar Limited

24.12

28.141

35.801

WFR

MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc

28.83

40.929

63.884

YGE

Yingli Green Energy Holding Co

11.49

14.777

20.055

 

 

 

 

 

There are three things that are important to understand regarding investing in the current renewable energy industry:

  1. Just the Beginning of the Renewables Boom — This is "just the beginning" of the birth of the renewable energy industry. The renewable energy industry is at the same stage now as the automobile industry was in 1900. We are seeing the first few companies becoming public and we will see hundreds more over the next decades. It will be an exciting time for investors and there will be ample opportunity for investors to make money and also help the environment, which is a welcome change from the fossil-fuel dominated energy sector of today.
  2.  Highly Volatility — At this early stage of development there will be excessive volatility in this sector until it becomes a more mature industry. Investors must carefully select their entry points and be patient. This sector is NOT for the faint of heart. Investors have to be careful only to invest a portion of their portfolio, which they have designated for "higher risk" investments. These will be the stocks that you can make the most money on, but also the ones you could lose the most on. Risk and reward have always been intrinsically linked and this is no exception.
  3. Pending Legislation Key to Short-Term Uncertainly — I expect that we will see some pending solar legislation pass in the congress before year end, perhaps even today, since it has been attached to the bailout bill. If this happens the legislative tide will raise ALL SOLAR STOCKS and well as the entire market. Where it goes from there and how far the stocks rebound is any ones guess. One thing for sure, investors will have to be nimble and be prepared to take some short term profits.

 If it does NOT happen this year, there will be a further drop in solar stocks, until 2009, when I am relatively sure some form of legislation will be forthcoming. Once this occurs I think it will light a fire under solar stocks and they will make a strong run up in the beginning of the year. However, next year there will be problems in the solar industry, for example: excess silicon supply, margin compression and PE contraction (which we are currently seeing to a large degree). But in the shorter term, I see solar stocks making another run up as just another step in their eventual movement to a booming industry of the future.

In conclusion, it is important to remember to be patient and not to overreact to this crazy market with its incredible volatility and short term “panic” psychology. I have seen this type of panic many times in the past and it is “usually” seen at or near market bottoms.

There will be plenty of opportunities in the future for the patient, level-headed investor. You need to have your cash reserves ready when the time is right. As I have said a number of times in the past, the best way to make money is not to lose it!

Remember, it is NOT how much money you make when the market goes up, but it is how much money you keep after the market has gone down.

About InvestorIdeas.com:

"One of the first online investor resources providing in-depth information on renewable energy, greentech and water sectors." InvestorIdeas.com is a leading global investor and industry research resource portal specialized in sector investing covering over thirty industry sectors and global markets including China, India, Middle East and Australia.

Peter Lynch RSS Feed: http://www.investorideas.com/RSS/feeds/PL.xml, Renewable Energy and GreenTech Business and Stock News RSS Feed: http://www.investorideas.com/RSS/feeds/RES.xml

J. Peter Lynch has worked, for 31 years as a Wall Street analyst, an independent equity analyst and private investor, and a merchant banker to small emerging technology companies. He has been actively involved in following developments in the renewable energy sector since 1977and is regarded as an expert in this area. He is currently a financial and technology consultant to a number of companies. He can be reached via e-mail at Solarjpl@aol.com.

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