What happened

Shares of Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI), a small-cap provider of postal delivery solutions, isn't the kind of stock you'd ordinarily expect to blow up 50% in a day, but that's precisely what we're seeing this afternoon: Pitney Bowes stock, up 52% as of 2:45 p.m. EST.

The question is why?

Cartoon rocket zooming up like a stock on a chart.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Is it earnings? Pitney Bowes is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter numbers in just one week, after all, on Feb. 2. But analysts are forecasting profits of just $0.10 per share, or 29% below what the company earned a year ago, despite sales growing 13%.  

That hardly seems like anything to get excited about.

Or is it a takeover rumor that's lifting this stock? On the SEC's website, BlackRock (NYSE:BLK) just made an SC-13G/A filing showing that it has taken a 14.6% stake in Pitney Bowes stock.

Problem is...that's precisely the same amount BlackRock already owned a year ago. No change at all.  

Or could it be...WallStreetBets (WSB), the Reddit phenomenon that's already blown up shares of everyone from Bed Bath & Beyond to GameStop to Virgin Galactic, as it directs its legions of short-term momentum traders to buy shares of heavily shorted stocks and send them to the moon, flying on a wing and a prayer?

Now what

I honestly don't know which of these factors is actually sending Pitney Bowes stock so dramatically higher today. Maybe it's a combination of all three: a misinterpretation of the BlackRock filing combining with a rumor that earnings will outperform; and the hope that these two factors will work in combination to "squeeze the shorts" who are betting on Pitney Bowes' downfall and have sold 13% of the company's shares short.  

What I do know is that Pitney Bowes' profit has been falling for three straight years. It's unprofitable so far this year, too, and likely to end the year with a loss -- and it's carrying $2 billion in net debt. That's not the kind of stock I personally would bet on to outperform the stock market over the long term, although it's certainly doing mighty fine 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.