What happened 

Shares of Pacific Ethanol (ALTO -1.01%) were up by as much as 11.1% in early trading Friday, continuing a great week for the stock. But most of those gains didn't last long, and by the close of the trading day, the stock was up by just 1.1%. 

So what

Pacific Ethanol's stock has been on an incredible hot streak since investors learned that the company would be surprisingly profitable in 2020. It has shifted production away from ethanol to the high-grade alcohol that is in greater demand for cleaners and hand sanitizers during the pandemic. As a result of the windfall that has resulted from that move, management now expects adjusted EBITDA of between $50 million and $70 million this year, with "momentum continuing into 2021."

Corn ethanol in test tubes.

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

Given the sharp rise in its share price and uncertainty about how long the current demand levels will last, we can expect some volatility from Pacific Ethanol's shares. That's what I'll chalk Friday's moves up to, because there wasn't any real news out of the company or the industry that could have driven the rise or the fall back to nearly flat. But keep a close eye on its earnings over the next few months, because the high demand for sanitizers and disinfectants probably won't last forever.