(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.

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