What happened

The fuel cells sector of the stock market is looking all shook up this morning, with shares of manufacturer Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG) down 2.1% and truck maker Nikola (NASDAQ:NKLA) crashing 13.7% as of 10:40 a.m. EDT.

By way of contrast, Bloom Energy (NYSE:BE) is exploding higher -- up 8.8%.

Red arrow going down crosses a green arrow going up.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

What's driving Bloom Energy stock higher as other fuel cell stocks fade? In a word: earnings.  

Last night after close of trading, Bloom reported a modest 3.5% gain in sales year over year for its fiscal third quarter -- $207.2 million in total. That was quite a bit less than the $240.7 million that Wall Street had predicted, and Bloom did itself no favors by also reporting a $0.20-per-share adjusted loss for the quarter (when Wall Street had forecast only an $0.08 loss). Adding to the misery, Bloom's loss when calculated according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) was an even higher $0.30 per share.  

Nevertheless, investors seem satisfied with the company reporting "record acceptances" of fuel cell systems in the quarter, up 12.4% year over year, and they're especially encouraged by the company's confirmation that it's on track to begin producing hydrogen gas to fuel those cells.

Now what

There's still the question of why this optimism over Bloom isn't spilling over to boost shares of its archrival, Plug Power, as often happens.

But if you think about it, this really is a situation in which logic prevails. If Bloom Energy is growing, that's growing competition for Plug. And if Bloom Energy is moving ahead into hydrogen gas production specifically, then that's a new area of competition for Plug Power, which has made a big bet on its ability to capture the entire hydrogen power supply chain by producing green hydrogen gas on its own.

And what about Nikola? There's an even simpler explanation for that stock's decline today: Yesterday, as you may have heard, Nikola stock jumped on news of a smaller-than-expected Q3 loss ($0.22 per share) and an announcement that it's preparing to settle fraud charges leveled against it by the Securities and Exchange Commission, for $125 million.

Investors responded positively to the removal of the litigation threat, and the better-than-expected earnings report. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Nikola lost money last quarter -- and that $125 million is going to take a sizable bite out of its treasure chest. Given that Nikola's news really wasn't all that good yet delivered a 21.5% bump in stock price yesterday, investors may be thinking that right now is a really good time to take some profit and exit the stock.

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.