What's Behind the 131% Gain in This LED Lighting Powerhouse

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The San Francisco Bay Bridge has become the shining symbol of why the future is so bright for LED lighting investors.

The span connecting the East Bay to San Francisco is now adorned with more than 25,000 bright LEDs strung on some 300 vertical wires along 1.8 miles of the bridge's western span.

SF Bay Bridge

Called The Bay Lights, the LED necklaces are part of a two-year project by artist Leo Villareal designed to dazzle the millions who see the landmark bridge at night.

My wife and I recently had dinner at a restaurant that looks right at the bridge, and both of us were just dazzled by the quality of the exhibit, funded largely by wealthy donors and local businesses.

But there's more to this display than public art and tourist appeal...

Cree (Nasdaq: CREE) Is On a Tear

The project also underscores the huge gains being made by the domestic LED lighting industry. From flashlights to autos to billboards to retail stores, LED lights are now turning up everywhere.

This helps explain why shares of Cree, Inc. (NasdaqGS: CREE) have gone on a tear of late. Since the stock began its big rally in late July 2012, Cree shares are up more than 131%. This week alone the stock is up 18%.

Chart forCree, Inc. (CREE)

It's easy to see why fortune has smiled on this once-struggling LED firm. The mid-cap leader has carved out a commanding position in the booming LED sector.

Take the case of its $525 million purchase of Ruud Lighting in August 2011. That acquisition has greatly enhanced its position in the rapidly growing market for street lights, hospitals, retail stores and indoor commercial lighting.

Internally, Cree has also become more efficient as its sales have grown.

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