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TheStreet Open House

Lower Energy Prices Throw a Cloud Over Solar

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- News of metals setting new records for how far they fell Monday was widely covered.

The S&P Gold Trust ETF (GLD) fell over $13 by the end of after-hours trading on Monday compared to Friday's close. The iShares Silver ETF (SLV) fared even worse on a percentage basis. SLV fell over $3, or 12%. (Both are higher in recent trading, with GLD up 2.3% to $134.30 and SLV up nearly 4% to $22.92.)

Both these widely followed metals didn't exactly have a fun start into the weekend either. Friday was one of the worst days for both in a long time and Monday more or less pushed on the accelerator to increase the intensity of the fall.

What you may have missed is that the United States Oil ETF (USO) has a similar chart pattern and has stepped over the cliff to join the metals. Oil leads the way and is the primary influence on inflation, which in turn pushes gold higher or lower.

The price of oil and natural gas as seen by the United States Nat Gas (UNG), directly influences the viability of alternative energy such as solar. For solar bulls, lower energy prices spell trouble. (See my warning about chasing solar. )


About a week ago, many solar names jumped on news of greater efficiency and lower cost. First Solar (FSLR) was busy announcing several developments. First Solar announced it is acquiring TetraSun, expects greater revenue for 2013 and expects to produce 40-cent-per-watt cells by 2017. Investors enthusiastically welcomed the announcement for First Solar, which gave a boost to other solar names.

First Solar went from an April 8 closing price of 27.04 to a closing price the next day of $39.35. LDK Solar (LDK) closed April 8 at $1.07 and closed the next day at $1.38. Trina Solar Limited (TSL) and Suntech Power Holdings (STP) also made similar moves higher.

Since April 9, none of these solar companies have closed higher, and most have fallen back to under or near the closing price before that day.

First Solar is the only company that hasn't totally fallen back to the previous lows. However, investors in the solar space have a much greater problem on their hands. If the price of oil declines, demand for alternative energy sources, including solar, will as well.

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