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Solar Winners: Time to Take the Money and Run?

(Solar sector article updated with analysis of U.S. trade complaint, poll question on the outlook for solar stocks.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Solar stocks know only one direction, and it's up. Whether it's a solar cell, wafer or solar module maker, the solar rally is living to see at least one more day with the gains on Thursday across many sector stocks.

Solar cell leader JA Solar (JASO) is up 37% in the past month.

Chinese solar wafer leader LDK Solar (LDK) is up 60% in the past month. LDK Chinese wafer making mate ReneSola (SOL - Get Report) is up 45% in the past month.

The gains by the major module makers are paltry in comparison. A mere 18% gain for Yingli Green Energy (YGE), and a mere 20% gain for SunPower (SPWRA). Suntech Power (STP) has also rallied over the past month.

The biggest module maker of all, First Solar (FSLR - Get Report) stoked the flames of optimism twice in the past two weeks, first announcing 380 megawatts of orders for Europe in 2011, above and beyond its existing guidance, and on Thursday, announcing that it's expanding its manufacturing capacity by another 500 MW, planning two new plants in the U.S. and Vietnam.

It's no surprise that as the general optimism in solar remains high, module makers who have been dogs for one reason or another will be lifted by the general tide. Yingli Green Energy, for example, has faced persistent questions about an earnings drag from its polysilicon plant ramp up. Additionally, Yingli has not been an aggressive currency hedger, so the euro rebound stands to benefit its earnings in the forex column. The rest of the module maker gains are in the low double-digits over the past month, so not even worth printing.

SunPower faces persistent questions about its pricing, but for investors who are concerned about ASPs in 2011, a module maker like SunPower with a captive sales channel through its solar project pipeline could be judged a more defensive way to play the sector, especially since its shares are down 36% this year.

In the micro-cap crowd, U.S. solar stocks often neglected, like Evergreen Solar (ESLR) and Ascent Solar (ASTI) are up 88% and 70% respectively in the last month. This week, in particular, the micro-cap solar stocks rallied as a group to a level not seen in some time.
Time to Take Money and Run from Solar? Vote Now
Time to Book Profits in Solar Stocks?
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