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LDK Leads Solar Slump on Manufacturing, First Solar Downgrade

Chinese solar stocks, led by LDK Solar Co., tumbled in New York as data signaled Chinese manufacturing is shrinking and U.S. panel maker First Solar Inc. was cut to sell by Maxim Group LLC.

LDK, the world’s second-largest maker of solar wafers, slipped 8.6 percent to $2.97 in New York, the lowest level since Nov. 21. Trina Solar Ltd., China’s third-biggest maker of solar panels, declined 5.8 percent to $6.38, while Suntech Power Holdings Co., the world’s largest manufacturer of panels, fell 4.6 percent to $2.49, the least since Jan. 9.

China’s purchasing managers’ index shrank to a preliminary reading of 49.1 in April, signaling manufacturing may have contracted for a six month, according to HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics. A number below 50 points to a contraction. Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar, the world’s largest thin-film panel maker, was cut from hold by Maxim because of an excess supply of polysilicon in the industry, according to a report.

“Investors and analysts are trying to determine who are going to be the survivors in the industry in the long term,” said Michael Obuchowski, chief investment officer at First Empire Asset Management, which has $4.5 billion under management.

“The manufacturing numbers out of China are apparently panicking people and downgrades don’t help either,” Obuchowski, who sold shares in First Solar last year and continues to monitor the industry, said in a phone interview from Hauppauge, New York.

First Solar tumbled 6.8 percent in New York to $19.25, a record low.

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