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What happened 

Shares of coal producer Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE:CLD) jumped as much as 16.9% today after the company reported third-quarter earnings results. At 12:30 p.m. EDT, the stock was still up an impressive 12.9%. 

So what

Revenue plunged 28% in the quarter to $217.1 million and net income of $8.9 million a year ago swung to a loss of $1.6 million, or $0.03 per share. But Wall Street analysts expected a $0.12-per-share loss, so the stock responded positively today. 

Management also raised 2016 EBITDA guidance, which gives investors an idea about the cash flow coming from the business, from $75 million-$95 million to a range of $90 million-$100 million. That got investors and analysts excited that future results would improve for the highly leveraged company. 

Now what

Investors are reading a lot into a small earnings beat because Cloud Peak Energy is still losing money. And it can't be overlooked that the coal industry in general is in a long decline as coal plants are shut down and natural gas and renewables grow their percentage of global energy production. Sometimes beating expectations is a good sign for a company, but today's move in Cloud Peak Energy doesn't show the fundamental improvement needed for coal to be a good business long term and it isn't a buying opportunity for investors today. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.