Diminished expectations can lead to powerful stock price moves when good news unexpectedly arrives. When lots of short-sellers have a position in such a security, you can really see some fireworks.

This is exactly what happened today with Energy Conversion Devices (Nasdaq: ENER). In 2008, ECD traded like it was the second coming of First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) and traded hands at more than $80 per share at one point. Over the ensuing quarters, the solar laminate player has become one of the most unloved of all solar stocks. A seemingly endless sequence of restructurings and layoffs has enveloped the stock in serious gloom. ECD -- more than 20% of whose share float was sold short earlier this month -- makes SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWRA) and Suntech Power (NYSE: STP) look resplendent by comparison.

Last quarter, ECD reported a net loss of $9.10 per share, well in excess of the share price at the time. It would have been extremely difficult for this company to report a worse earnings number today.

ECD still reported a loss for its fourth fiscal quarter, but there were some unexpectedly positive aspects to the report. Revenue came in ahead of expectations, the company generated some cash from operations, and it looks like ECD might even report a profitable quarter sometime next year. I told you diminished expectations are a powerful thing.

I know at least one bargain hunter who began sniffing around these shares earlier this year. He was a bit early, but he had the right idea: The time to think about investing in a high-flying stock is after that stock has taken a nosedive. He and other recent ECD investors may even make some money here. As for me, it's not clear that this company has a truly competitive offering, and I'll be fishing elsewhere. As always, though, I'd be keen to hear your thoughts on the prospects for this solar player.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.