Investors who owned stocks in the last 13 years have generally experienced some big gains. In fact, the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY) total return since Nov. 4, 2008 is 345.9%.
On that day in history, Barack Obama was elected the 44th U.S. president.
First Solar’s Difficult Decade: The Democratic platform is generally much more favorable toward clean energy stocks than the Republican platform, but one market laggard since Obama’s 2008 victory has been solar panel maker First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR). First Solar investors are hoping the stock is perfectly positioned to capitalize on the rise in solar energy.
In the first year Obama was in office, First Solar reached an important milestone in becoming the first solar panel maker to reduce its cost per watt below $1. By 2019, CpW had dropped to 25.5 cents, and the company is hoping its Series 6 panel will continue to lower CpW to just 14.4 cents by 2024.
In 2011, First Solar marked a major strategy shift when it began to reduce its focus on residential rooftop panes and increase its focus on utility-scale photovoltaic systems.
In 2008, First Solar had a total capacity of 716 megawatts. By 2019, capacity had expanded to 5.5 gigawatts.
On the day Obama was elected back in 2008, First Solar shares were trading at around $177.
Unlike most other stocks, First Solar shares hit their Financial Crisis lows in late 2008 rather than early 2009, dropping as low as $85.28. After rebounding to as high as $175.45 in early 2011, First Solar shares tanked in 2011 and 2012 as the company’s panels fell behind competitors in efficiency. As a result, First Solar lost market share, revenue growth plummeted and the stock dropped to its decade low of $11.43 in mid-2012.
The stock found its stride in the second half of 2012 ahead of Obama’s re-election. By early 2014, First Solar was back up at $74.84, but the rally stalled from there. In fact, from early 2013 to mid-2020, First Solar traded mostly sideways in a wide trading range between around $25 and $75.
2020 And Beyond: First Solar finally broke out to the upside in mid-2020, likely on optimism surrounding a potential Joe Biden election victory.
Investor optimism surrounding alternative energy stocks soared in the months leading up to the election, and First Solar shares are now trading at around $80.
Unfortunately, First Solar was not the Obama-era home run investors had hoped. In fact, $1,000 invested in First Solar stock on the day Obama was elected would be worth about $452 today.
Looking ahead, analysts are expecting First Solar’s Biden momentum to continue in the next 12 months. The average price target among the 13 analysts covering the stock is $94, suggesting 17.2% upside from current levels.
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