What happened

Renewable energy stocks surged in Tuesday trading, with shares of hydrogen fuel cell company FuelCell Energy (FCEL -5.80%) closing the day up 12.1%, natural-gas fuel provider Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE -2.20%) rising 12.8%, and lithium miner Livent (LTHM) booking a 9.2% gain. 

Three colorful arrows racing straight up on a black background

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

The media looked completely devoid of news directly relating to any of these stocks today. Even macroeconomically speaking, oil prices (which can presage movement in the stock prices of companies offering alternatives to oil) were all but moribund today. WTI crude prices closed the day down about 0.2%, but Brent crude was up 0.2%.

Now what

So why were these stocks moving higher today? Momentum is one possible answer. The past 52 weeks have seen Livent shares gain 87%, Clean Energy 117%, and FuelCell 1,377%! Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and in the absence of news (bad news in this case), it's possible investors were just buying these stocks because they've been going up, and were assuming they'll continue doing so.

Another theory: In just a little over six weeks, a new president will move into the White House, and he's firmly on the record favoring renewable energy. Investors in FuelCell Energy, Clean Energy, and Livent today may have been simply doing what they've been doing all year long, which is betting that a Biden administration will adopt policies favorable to their stocks.

That may be a good bet, if these companies can figure out how to profit from greater government support over the next four years. All three companies are expected to lose money this year. Analysts expect only Livent to turn a profit in 2021, according to estimates collected by S&P Global Market Intelligence, and FuelCell Energy could still be losing money when the next presidential administration rolls around.

Until they figure out how to turn profitable, one small caution: Stocks that go up suddenly on no news can go back down just as fast, and for just as little reason.