David Sterman

For a few years, this stock was the best investment in clean energy, according to many investors and analysts. Bar none. The company boasted intriguing technology, stunning sales growth and robust profits.

Now, by one measure, it's the single worst clean energy investment on the stock market: The company lost investors nearly $15 billion in the past two years, in what must rank as the most stunning implosions investors have ever seen.

You usually see a stock chart like this when a company has committed fraud or otherwise taken steps to mislead shareholders, in effect running a house of cards that was designed to steal money from an unwary public. Yet in this company's case, it was primarily a victim of circumstance.

I'm talking about First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR).

A promising feature
Just a few years ago, solar power appeared to have the backing of many governments and businesses, leading the company to pump up research and development (R&D) spending and quickly expand manufacturing capacity. As we now know, that industry support proved fleeting once government budgets became constrained and traditional fuel sources like natural gas plunged in value. And First Solar, like every other industry player, is struggling to adapt to a smaller market opportunity and profound industry pricing pressures.

Most analysts -- yes those same ones that only recently had $150 or even $200 price targets --now suggest you steer clear of this stock. Most have price targets in the low $20s or teens and rate the stock as "Neutral" or a "Sell." The dislike for this company is now nearly universal.

David Sterman

David Sterman has worked as an investment analyst for nearly two decades. He is currently an analyst for StreetAuthority.com

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