What happened

Shares of electric-car company Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) climbed 13.8% in January, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. One of the main reasons for the stock's rise in January was probably the overall strength of the market during the month. (The S&P 500 gained about 6% during the period.)

But another possible reason for the stock's gain during the month could be the first optimistic news on Model 3 production in a while. For once, Tesla's Model 3 production was on track with its most recently updated targets.

A silver Model 3 driving on an open road

Model 3. Image source: Tesla.

After Tesla twice delayed Model 3 production targets, investors could have been expecting the company to announce another delayed target for its ambitious Model 3 production plans. In addition, investors could have been buying shares in anticipation of Tesla's fourth-quarter earnings report, hoping the update would bring some news that would lift the stock.

So what

Tesla was initially aiming to achieve a Model 3 production rate of 5,000 units per week by the end of 2017. But the automaker delayed this target to the end of Q1, and then to the end of Q2. But in January, Tesla denied claims asserting production was behind its most recently updated targets, saying it still expected to achieve a production rate of 2,500 units per week by the end of Q1 and 5,000 units per week by the end of Q2.

Of course, there could be other reasons for the stock's gain, such as technical reasons. Some investors who were shorting the stock, for instance, may have covered their positions.

Now what

Whatever the exact reason was for Tesla stock's outsized gain in January, the company's fourth-quarter earnings release failed to garner investor confidence in the company's aggressive growth plans for 2018 and beyond. The stock fell about 7% after its fourth-quarter update in February.

A month-to-date decline for Tesla likely has been fueled by the broader market's decline during this period. The S&P 500 is down 7% month to date, while Tesla stock is down 11%, erasing most of its January gains.

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.