These companies have made a lot of money for investment bankers, a lot of money for executives through stock options, and a lot of money for the hedge funds and other shorters smart enough to see through the rhetoric and markets' disconnect and play these stocks as nothing more than convenient fast money vehicles, and ride these stocks like First Solar and Cree (CREE) all the way down in 2011.
The returns paint a grim picture of all the good social good does for investors who buy into the social good argument in industries still in their infancy and without a clear road to sustainable profits:
As solar analyst Paul Leming of Ticonderoga Securities, who has been in it from the beginning, recently said, "The volatility in this space has been amazing -- and I'd never bet against [the bulls] telling people that Shangri-La is now right around the corner. The thought that goes through my mind is that many of these stocks have declined 90% from their peak -- FSLR $310 to $32; SunPower (SPWR) $140 to ... whoops $6 (95%); MEMC Electronic Materials (WFR) $95 to $4 (another 95%'er). There has been a one-way trade for three or four years in this group. Within that long-term secular trade, there have been too many short-term trades to count. That is going to continue."
I hope not, but I don't doubt it, and the point is, social good alone does not make for a viable business, even if it makes for a darn good trading strategy. For investors, if you've been burned, try to remember that feeling good about green energy can still make you feel very nauseous when monitoring your portfolio.Though forget about stock market investors. The larger queasiness is knowing that all of these tired arguments about the energy wars will be dusted off once again in 2012, and there's nothing anything anyone can do about it, except ignore them. -- Written by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.
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