Trump's solar tariff confusion creates an opportunity

September 28, 2017 10:39 AM

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The solar sector is reeling from confusion, and stock prices are reeling right along with it. The time it has taken investors and traders to wrap their heads around Trump's industry tariffs and the pyrrhic victory of two solar companies in a case against cheap Chinese imports have seen stocks rally in a big way, and then fall just as hard.

When the International Trade Court ruled in favor of plaintiffs Suniva and SolarWorld in their case against cheap Chinese solar module and cell imports, reactions were polarized: the U.S. solar industry was outraged—as it had been for most of the duration of the court investigation—and investors, apparently, were extremely upbeat for the future of this same outraged industry, sending solar stocks sky-high.

The rally did not last long, though. While investors' immediate reaction to the court ruling was of the unsurprising knee-jerk variety, reality started to set in over the last few days and solar stocks took a nosedive as sharp as the rally they enjoyed last week. Just what the solar companies needed after the ruling that threatened their chances of survival.

On the face of it, the court case doesn't seem like such a big deal, but nothing could be further from the truth. Narrowly speaking, bankrupt Suniva filed a complaint with the ITC claiming that cheap Chinese solar panels and cells were instrumental in the company's declining performance. Suniva, whose owners are Chinese, was quickly joined by German-based SolarWorld in its claim. The key word in the case was "flooded": the U.S. market, the plaintiffs claimed, was flooded with Chinese-made cells and panels. The solution? A floor price of US$0.78/W for modules and a US$0.40/W tariff for solar cells—enter the broader picture.
 

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