Meet the 2012 Top Solar Stocks… Junk Rules (ENER, ASTI, HSOL, STP, TAN)

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The solar sector has been a total dud for investors.  What is interesting is that many of these down and out companies have risen handily off of their recent lows.  The trend seems to favor the junkiest and riskiest over the more stable, which is not unusual when you consider snap-back rallies.  We filtered out our solar universe of companies not delisted and found that the gains year-to-date in some of these dogs has been unbelievable.

Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ: ENER) is still down by about 75% over the last year, but so far in 2012 the stock is up almost 400% and it is actually back over $1.00 now.  Could it escape our “list of stocks likely to die in 2012” after all?

Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: ASTI) is another one that is down about 75% over the last year, and its shares are up over 100% so far year-to-date in 2012. Before getting too excited, this is still under $1.00 around $0.83.

Hanwha SolarOne Co., Ltd. (NASDAQ: HSOL) has been a disaster as well up until the start of 2012.  This China player is the next of the little junk performers in solar with shares up 83% or so despite the stock still being down almost 80% over the last year.

Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP) is one of the larger or more recognized solar players so it should look at least a bit more normalized.  Its market cap is now under $600 million.  Even with a drop of over 60% in the last year or so, this one is up about 42% year-to-date.

To show just how great the solar sector has been as a whole so far in 2012, the Guggenheim Solar ETF (NYSE: TAN) is up 19% year-to-date.  Not many ETFs that are not leveraged can show performance of almost 20% in just this month.  Just keep in mind that is down about 60% from a year ago.

(price performance metrics from Finviz.com)

JON C. OGG