(Ascent Solar, solar winners story updated for Chinese deal)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It doesn't take much to move a stock that trades at under $5 into the double-digit percentage rise territory, but it's still noteworthy that niche solar company Ascent Solar ( ASTI) has started the week as it traded last week, with relatively high volume and large returns for the niche solar play.

Last week, Ascent Solar had two of its biggest trading days in recent history on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Monday morning, Ascent Solar announced that it had signed a deal with China's Radiant Holding to distribute of Ascent Solar's building integrated photovoltaic solar (BIPV) modules in China.

Ascent solar shares rose by close to 10% in early trading and within minutes of the market open, share volume in Ascent Solar was ahead of its full day average.

Ascent Solar President and CEO Farhad Moghadam said in the announcement, "This relationship will give us access to a very large and rapidly growing market for BIPV applications in China."

Monday's action in Ascent Solar shares is just the latest in what has been a spate of activity that shows investors trading the niche solar play more the average action suggests. Last week's relatively heavy trading in Ascent was less news-linked, though.

Often there is a clear-cut reason for a surge in a solar stock -- as in the case of JA Solar ( JASO) last week, when it announced at the big solar conference in Valencia, Spain, that it had already booked 500 megawatts of solar sales for 2011, and upped its 2010 full year shipment guidance to 1.3 gigawatts.

Ascent Solar, after a huge spike on Wednesday, gave back from of its big gains by Thursday afternoon. Yet after the Monday morning surge, Ascent Solar shares are back where they were at the heights of last week's rally, up more than 40% in all. Of course, for a $3.21 stock, the 40% needs to be viewed in the prism of dollar-stock reality.

However, trading volume in Ascent Solar shares last week was high for the niche solar play. More than 431,000 shares of Ascent Solar were traded on Wednesday, and on Thursday, more than 750,000 shares were traded. By contrast, most of Ascent Solar's previous big trading days in 2010 have been ones on which its shares ended lower.

The only recent news from the company before the Chinese deal was announced was the type of release that rarely moves a solar stock -- an announcement from the company that it had launched a new and improved version of its niche solar module for the building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) market. "That shouldn't move the stock the way we've seen," said one green energy insider. Though the BIPV news can now be linked to the BIPV distribution deal in China.

The mood in solar, generally, is positive right now, and the tone at the Valencia, Spain, conference has not surprisingly been one of solar management trying to put to rest fears that a big slowdown in the market is coming in 2011.

TheStreet has profiled Ascent Solar in the past, and its opportunity in emerging solar markets like India, with community-based solar solutions that are in the off-grid category. However, the sudden surge was classified as surprising by some analysts in the green stock sector.

"I'm puzzled," said one analyst before the Chinese distribution deal was announced. "The tone from Valencia has been generally positive, so it's been a good week for solar stocks in general, but I don't see any readily apparent reasons for ASTI's huge outperformance."

Analysts in the sector said there hasn't been an Ascent Solar rating change of note, either.

One industry insider said Goldman Sachs had bought a big block of shares last week, and that UBS was active in pushing the stock on the retail side.

Ascent Solar investors relations official Brian Blackman confirmed some of the trading activity. The Ascent Solar IR rep said that Goldman Sachs has been an active investor in its shares for three years, but the block trading done by Goldman on Wednesday was at a more significant level than what Ascent has seen in a while from Goldman. He said the UBS high-end retail group also was more active in the past few days.

Technical buying may also have been a big factor in the Ascent Solar mystery rise ahead of Monday's announcement about China. Ascent Solar broke through its 50-day moving average last Wednesday. The activity from the big Wall Street firms helped to push Ascent shares above the 50-day moving average, which can result in follow-the-lead trading.

--Written by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: NAME.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/NAME.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.


Copyright 2009 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

If you liked this article you might like

Ascent Solar (ASTI) Stock Soars on New Patent

Ascent Solar (ASTI) Stock Soars on New Patent

Strong On High Volume: Ascent Solar Technologies (ASTI)

Strong On High Volume: Ascent Solar Technologies (ASTI)

5 Stocks Under $10 Set to Soar

5 Stocks Under $10 Set to Soar

Weak On High Volume: Ascent Solar Technologies (ASTI)

Weak On High Volume: Ascent Solar Technologies (ASTI)

5 Stocks Under $10 Set to Soar

5 Stocks Under $10 Set to Soar