NEW YORK: Shares in heavily-shorted mortgage provider Rocket Companies surged on Tuesday (Mar 2) and were set for their third straight day of gains as the stock drew interest on Twitter and Reddit’s popular WallStreetBets.
After being halted for volatility the stock was last up 46.2 per cent at US$35.54, after earlier rising as much as 73.5 per cent. It extended earlier gains as volume spiked higher in the afternoon with the more than 212 million trades far exceeding the number of publicly traded shares. And at its session high so far, the stock was more than 110 per cent above Thursday's closing price.
Some fuel for the company’s recent gains may be coming from a short squeeze, where investors betting against a companies shares are forced to unwind their positions after a rally in the stock price, analysts said.
That would make it similar to GameStop and other popular “meme stocks” that soared in January and plummeted last month, only to come alive again in recent weeks.
"This is another ‘Gamestopesque’ short activity," said Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics at S3 Partners.
As of Monday's close, US$1.2 billion worth of the company's shares outstanding were sold short, compared with US$937 million a week ago, according to Dusaniwsky. The percentage of shares outstanding sold short stood at 45.8 per cent as of Monday's close, from 35.5 per cent at the beginning of February, he said.
The rate charged to borrow shares of Rocket Companies has also sky rocketed as demand to short the stock rose, with investors taking new short positions being charged 75 per cent to 100 per cent of shares borrowed on Tuesday compared with a 29 per cent borrow fee for existing short sellers, Dusaniwsky said.
Jefferies analyst Ryan Carr on Feb 25 raised his price target on the stock to US$30, from US$27.50, after the company reported fourth-quarter results that handily beat Wall Street expectations.
Rocket also announced a special dividend of US$1.11/shr payable on Mar 23 to shareholders of record at close of business on Mar 9.
Rocket's Chief Executive Officer Jay Farner is due to participate in Morgan Stanley's Technology, Media & Telecom conference on Wednesday morning. Meanwhile shares in another mortgage company, UWM Holdings, were up 19 per cent at US$9.09 with trading volume already approaching three times the 10-day moving average.
Mentions of Rocket Companies on WallstreetBets have climbed in recent days, according to website SwaggyStocks.com, which tracks comments on the forum.
Other stocks followed closely by retail investors were seeing a mixed reception on Tuesday, with shares of GameStop up 2.0 per cent while headphone maker Koss Corp was down 8.7 per cent and AMC Entertainment was off 4.5 per cent.