What happened

Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE 1.86%) shares hit a rough patch last month. No sooner had Clean Energy stock peaked on news of a big natural gas supply deal inked with the Los Angeles Metro than Clean Energy got hit by a downdraft.

By close of trading Monday, shares of the natural gas-for-vehicle fuel company shed 43% of its market capitalization. Investors began worrying that higher bond rates might make for more attractive investments than shares of a company which saw declining sales in three of the last six quarters and lost money in four of them.

And yet today, Clean Energy shares are up 13.7% in 1:30 p.m. EST trading.

Stock up glowing green arrow climbs on a stock screen.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

So what changed in the Clean Energy story today to send the shares higher? Well, actually, nothing...yet.

That being said, today is a special day for Clean Energy. After the market closes this afternoon, the company is expected to report its fourth-quarter 2020 earnings, and analysts have set the bar exceptionally low for outperformance. On average, Wall Street is predicting a 40% drop in sales for Clean Energy -- and no profits at all.

Now what

When you consider that last quarter, the company's sales dropped only 5%, this seems like an exceptionally pessimistic forecast and one that Clean Energy might very well beat. With the stock already up more than 13% in anticipation of tonight's news, and just a few hours remaining before that news comes out, I see little sense in trying to board a train that has already left the station.

My advice: Sit tight.

See how the numbers look after they come out and decide whether to buy then. Worst case? You haven't missed out on all the gains that happen because the stock has already moved higher. Best case? You avoid a world of hurt if Clean Energy somehow manages to miss the already low expectations set for it, and the stock takes a tumble tonight.