(Solar winners story updated for closing prices of solar company stocks.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If the first trading day of 2010 is any indication, the new year will mirror the previous year in the solar sector, with Chinese solar companies being favored by investors. Most of the major Chinese solar powers -- including Trina Solar ( TSL), Yingli Green Energy Holdings ( YGE), Suntech Power ( STP), JA Solar ( JASO) and China Sunergy ( CSUN) -- led the way in a big solar run on Monday.

The biggest solar gains far outpaced the broad technology sector gains of 1.8% on Monday, and several of the Chinese solar players bested the solar sector index return of 3.5% on the first trading day of the new year.

A recent TheStreet poll revealed that many investors believe the Chinese solar players will continue to extend their lead over the solar industry bellwether stock First Solar ( FSLR - Get Report) in 2010. First Solar may generate healthy profits in 2010, but TheStreet readers don't believe it can match the gains to be made by the Chinese solar companies. Here again, the first day of trading provided an indication that there was no slowing in the competition between the upstart Chinese and the U.S. solar leader.

Notably on Monday, while most of the Chinese solar firms were up 3% or more in afternoon trading, First Solar was among the only solar companies with negative returns on Monday afternoon, though by day end First Solar shares ended virtually flat. Sunpower ( SPWRA), the other major U.S.-based solar company, ended Monday's trading session up slightly over 1%.

Canadian Solar ( CSIQ - Get Report), which despite its name has headquarters in China and has a largely Chinese management team, led solar gainers on Monday, up more than 7.5%. ReneSola ( SOL) was up more than 7%.

Trina Solar was up 5.6%; while China Sunergy was up 5%. Yingli Green Energy, Suntech and JA Solar were up between 3.5% and 4% on Monday.

Trina and Yingli are among the biggest threats to the U.S. solar companies in 2010.

The largest gains on Monday in the solar sector were made by Spire ( SPIR), up more than 8%. While industry bellwether First Solar was a laggard on Monday, thinly traded solar equipment manufacturers Spire and GT Solar ( SOLR) fared much better, with GT Solar also up 3% -- though neither figures as a direct competitor to the Chinese players.

Among major U.S. solar players, wafer manufacturer MEMC Electronic Materials ( WFR) was up 1.7% on Monday. During the quiet holiday week, MEMC received an increase in its credit facility from a bank syndicate, up from $200 million to $250 million. The increased credit line is likely to be needed after MEMC's acquisition of SunEdison pushes the wafer maker into the more cost-intensive large-scale solar farm market.

Even with MEMC's gains, and the solar equipment manufacturers like Spire and GT Solar trading up as much as they are likely to be down on any given day, traders rang in the first trading day of 2010 with the same message regarding solar: shine a light on the Chinese solar players.

-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.


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