Man-made global warming is science fact, and humanity must cut carbon emissions as soon as possible if it has any chance of surviving. The clarion call has been sounded in response to this apparently irresistible mandate, and the world's leaders now meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, to
show their faith in this new, global religion (or, at least, fulfill the political need for their country to be seen to believe in it);
tut-tut about the lack of action to combat the problem, and;
agree on a statement for the need for more action to combat the problem, while not specifically stating what and when such actions should occur.
All of which will have the effect of
continuing to confuse the hell out of anyone trying to invest on the global warning theme.
While I may not be ready to drink the Kool-Aid yet about the causes and imminently dire consequences of global warming, I absolutely work in an environment that cannot ignore the movement. I can't remember a time when I didn't have at least one energy-related stock on the "Recommended List" of my
newsletter. Using executives' transactions as the first screen to determine where to focus my fundamental analysis, I've also often been able to proclaim noticeable trends in this large sector.
But the certainty of global warming zealots in their cause is absolutely not reflected in the insider trades of those people whose companies are likely to be most affected by legislation promulgated by the global warming testament.
That may seem surprising to investors who, recalling dot-com-era logic, suspend their normal financial analysis to favor any stock with the term "solar" or "wind" in its name -- which is not entirely unreasonable considering how much money was made in the dot-com bubble in the years leading up to March 2001. Even more logical is the thought that with so much at stake regarding the need for alternate energy sources, surely there must be green in "green" investments?
Could be. But there is a noticeable lack of bull horns being worn by executives in the alternate energy biz.
went public three years ago, there has been only one minor open-market purchase by an insider of the shares, back in February 2007. Even though this stock was (and is) still trading for less than half of what it fetched at the highs it hit in 2008, insiders continued to be sellers well into 2009.
Shares of micro-cap
Real Goods Solar
peaked around $7.50 during their initial public offering in May 2008 and then proceeded steadily south to a recent low of $1.42 in early 2009. For much of this year, RSOL has traded below $3, yet not one executive at Real Goods sees enough value in the firm to buy even one share.
saw no less a name than Jeffrey Gendell of Tontine Partners fame buy into its shares as they blew down to earth during last year's crisis. But after a sinusoidal move, BWEN remains basically where this hedge fund legend bought in. Perhaps tipping his hand, Gendell sold some of the stock as it finally (and briefly) traded up into double digits.
MEMC Electronic Materials
had some minor, bullish buys between April and November of 2008, but nothing since - even though this stock is again scraping along multi-year lows.
Nonetheless, many alternate energy stocks are catching Copenhagen fever, especially hot Chinese players such as
Solarfun Power Holdings
Yingli Green Energy
I'd love to know what insiders are doing with their shares at these Chinese firms. Alas, execs at these names are exempt from filing Form 4s at the U.S.
Securities Exchange Commission
since they have elected to be treated as "foreign private issuers."
The lack of transparency at these firms doesn't seem to matter to all those bidding up these securities at the moment, but it bothers me. It seems odd that the companies with the most promise of addressing a worldwide need would all be based in China. If there really was gold in them thar alternative energy solutions, I would have thought good ol' American ingenuity and capital would have prompted more stateside entrepreneurs to go for this big sunny brass ring. While fully aware that the U.S. is in decline, the country's animal spirits aren't dead yet.
I would also have expected some subset of the China-based firms now getting so much attention not to fear the added disclosure and expense of offering full disclosure to the U.S. investors they are appealing to by listing on the major exchanges here in the first place. As Louis Brandeis (a Supreme Court justice during the stock market crash of 1929) once noted, "sunshine is the best disinfectant" when it comes to cleaning up financial shenanigans. And disclosures like the Form 4s I follow were just one of the beacons lit up by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The fact that not one of the Chinese firms listed above thought such exposure was in their best interests is something that makes me go, "Hmmmmm."
So, since I use the insider trading data filed at the SEC as a first screen to determine where to focus my fundamental analysis, it seems that I'm going to miss the boat in a sector that many investors are absolutely salivating over. But I'm hardly ignoring energy right now. To the contrary, the sector is the most heavily weighted in my portfolio. In Part II of this article, I'll share the energy names insiders have steered me toward in this age of global warming.
At the time of publication, Moreland had no positions in the stocks mentioned, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, Moreland appreciates your feedback;
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