By Matt Daily
(Reuters) - The United States ruled that Chinese solar companies had illegally 'dumped' renewable power equipment on the U.S. market at below-market prices, and ordered tariffs on the imports, a source close to the case said on Thursday.
In a move likely to enflame trade tensions between Beijing and Washington, the preliminary ruling from the U.S. Commerce Department set tariffs on top Chinese exporters Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd and Trina Solar Ltd at about 31 percent, according to the source.
Tariffs on other Chinese solar imports that provided information to the U.S. government were also set at about 31 percent, although some companies could now face a 250 percent tariff, the source said.
The U.S. ruling, retroactive to cover imports dating back 90 days, comes two months after Washington set more modest tariffs on imports from China because of what it deemed Beijing's unfair support for its solar industry.
The tariffs on Suntech and Trina were lower than the more than 100 percent tariffs sought by SolarWorld USA and six other companies that had complained to the U.S. government about Chinese imports.
Shares of U.S.-based solar companies rose on the news, with First Solar Inc up 4.1 percent and Sunpower Corp gaining 11 percent. Sunpower Corp was already rallying after Apple Inc said it would use the company's solar panels for its solar farm.
U.S.-listed shares of Chinese solar companies dipped, particularly Yingli Green Energy, which was off 10.6 percent.
(Reporting By Matt Daily; editing by John Wallace)