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Sun Rising or Setting on the Solar ETF?


The Guggenheim Solar ETF (TAN) is up nearly 11% year-to-date, an impressive showing, but one that also indicates it will take multiple miracles for the largest solar ETF to even sniff last year’s nearly 128% surge.

Actually, TAN has a lot of work to do just to get back its 2014 high of which the ETF closed 16.5% below on Thursday. There are signs of strength within the solar sector and TAN, including TAN’s obvious out-performance of the broader market over the past several months and the willingness of Chinese policymakers to step up to help that country’s solar industry. That is an important consideration with TAN because the ETF allocates 28.4% of its weight to Chinese stocks. [China Props Up Solar ETFs]

On the other hand, some traders are making downside bets on TAN.

“During the past 10-days at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the ETF has racked up a put/call volume ratio of 23.31 — with more than 23 puts bought to open for every call,” writes Alex Eppstein for Schaeffer’s Investment Research.

Schaeffer’s that is the largest put/call discrepancy seen in TAN in a year. That does not necessarily all of that put-buying is off a bearish nature. Some traders that are long TAN or its high-flying yet volatile holdings, such as First Solar (FSLR) and Elon Musk’s SolarCity (SCTY), could be purchasing those puts as downside protection.

However, short sales data indicate so many shares of TAN have been borrowed that it would take traders eight days to cover all those bearish bets, a number that has not been exceeded in 18 months, according to Schaeffer’s.

TAN is no stranger to heavy shorting. In fact, massive short bets on the ETF’s holdings have allowed the fund to consistently outpace its underlying index while offering a decent dividend yield, an uncommon trait in the world of solar stocks, due to a profitable securities lending plan implemented by Guggenheim. [Solar ETF's Secret Sauce]

Speaking of short sales, TAN constituents including First Solar, Solar City, GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) and SunEdison (SUNE), have been among this year’s most heavily shorted issues. Those stocks combine for 29.4% of TAN’s weight, according to Guggenheim data.

Guggenheim Solar ETF