Wednesday was a relatively quiet day on Wall Street, with major benchmarks remaining close to the unchanged level as market participants took a break from the events of the past several weeks. Investors in the energy arena were optimistic about the future, sending crude oil prices higher by about $1 per barrel to climb above $49. Yet most of the market seemed content to wait in the seasonal lull between earnings releases, treading water in search of the next catalyst to push stocks more sharply in one direction or the other. Some individual companies had good news to send their shares higher, and Ballard Power Systems (NASDAQ:BLDP), Finish Line (NASDAQ:FINL), and Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) were among the best performers on the day. Below, we'll look more closely at these stocks to tell you why they did so well.

Ballard Power gets a recharge

Shares of Ballard Power Systems jumped 27% after the company made a major advance in its fuel cell technology. Until now, fuel cell systems have required substantial amounts of platinum, which makes them more expensive to make. Now, Ballard intends to create a key component of the fuel cell process using far less precious metals, with estimates of more than an 80% decline in the amount of platinum required. Ballard attributed the advance to its partnership with Japan's Nisshinbo Holdings, as the two companies have worked together for four years. New fuel cell stacks using the advanced technology should be available later this year, and that could breathe new life into Ballard's stock going forward.

Fuel cell compared to a ballpoint pen in size.

A new design could replace this older fuel cell technology. Image source: Ballard Power Systems.

Could Finish Line win a buyout bid?

Finish Line stock rose 6.5% amid speculation that the footwear retailer might get a takeover bid. Analysts at Susquehanna upgraded the stock from neutral to positive, with their report suggesting that the primary reason for better performance is an expected acquisition by U.K. sports retail peer Sports Direct. Finish Line implemented a poison pill late last month as a defensive measure against a hostile takeover, but analysts believe that the move was designed to bring would-be acquirers to the table for a full negotiation. Given how poorly Finish Line stock has fared recently, many shareholders would likely welcome a premium bid for the ailing retailer.

Nordstrom gets closer to going private

Finally, shares of Nordstrom finished higher by 6%. The high-end department store company climbed on renewed expectations that it will go private, with Nordstrom family members expected to lead the way forward for a leveraged buyout of the retailer. Speculation about a deal has been going around for months, but reports that private equity firm Leonard Green might be willing to participate in a going-private transaction made the possibility of an actual deal much greater. If the Nordstrom family can raise the money to make the purchase, a final bid could emerge before the end of the year.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Nordstrom. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.