Solar Perplex — Chasing First Solar or JinkoSolar?

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Following a rosy presentation at an analysts’ meeting yesterday, shares of First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) rose more than 45%, pulling a wagon load of other solar panel makers along with it. Today, JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. (NYSE: JKS) reported a sixth straight quarterly loss and the wagon is dragging First Solar and every other company back down the hill today.

The fundamentals of the solar panel business were no different yesterday than they were a week or a month ago nor are they different today. What’s different is the way First Solar will count its revenue. How an accounting change at First Solar can help SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR), LDK Solar Co. Ltd. (NYSE: LDK), Yingli Green Energy Co. Inc. (NYSE: YGE), or any of the other solar makers is a mystery.

At First Solar, the decision to recognize revenue sooner rather than later helps 2013’s expected results. But nothing has changed in the marketplace. And First Solar’s plans to cut costs and boost margins might work and it might not. Nor will governments ride to the rescue again with improved subsidies. Those days are behind us.

JinkoSolar’s quarterly net loss per American Depositary Shares (ADS) doubled from a year ago, even though the company managed to pull its gross margins back into positive territory. This Chinese solar maker’s results are far more representative of the state of the industry than yesterday’s presentation from First Solar.

Shares of JinkoSolar are down 6.7% today at $5.41 in a 52-week range of $2.00 to $10.07.

Shares of First Solar are also down, by 5.1% at $37.33 in a 52-week range of $11.43 to $41.00.

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