Rocket short sellers regroup as stock tumbles over 30% after surge

Lewis Krauskopf and Aaron Saldanha
·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: A banner celebrating Rocket Companies Inc. IPO is seen on the NYSE in New York

By Lewis Krauskopf and Aaron Saldanha

(Reuters) - A wild rally in shares of Rocket Companies that saw the stock rise 70% in an apparent short squeeze has attracted fresh bets that the stock price will decline.

Shares of Rocket, the parent of mortgage lender Quicken Loans, were down 31.7% to $28.43 in afternoon trading on Wednesday. The heavily-shorted stock had surged more than 70% on Tuesday in a move that analysts said was likely sparked by bearish investors unwinding bets against the stock as its share price surged.

However, the stock’s gains appear to have drawn more investors betting against Rocket’s shares.

The value of Rocket shares shorted stood at $2.04 billion as of Tuesday’s close, accounting for 45.15% of the float, according to Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics at S3 Partners.

That’s just a tick down from Monday, when 45.83% shares of the float were shorted.

“We are seeing existing shorts who have incurred large mark-to-market losses getting squeezed out of their trades, but there are new shorts looking to get in at these elevated prices,” Dusaniwsky said.

Rocket short-sellers were down $491 million overall in year-to-date mark-to-market losses, having cut the loss by more than half with Tuesday’s share price decline as of afternoon trading, S3 data showed.

Rocket’s Chief Executive Officer Jay Farner lauded the company's fundamentals on Wednesday during Morgan Stanley’s Technology, Media & Telecom conference, saying he was bullish on where the company was headed.

Shares in mortgage lender UWM Holdings Corp, which went public through a $16-billion deal with a blank-check firm, were up over 10% on Wednesday, after rising as much as 36% earlier in the session.

The outsized move in its share price puts Rocket among the stocks that have experienced wild gyrations after becoming a focus of investors on sites such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets. GameStop, perhaps the best known of the so-called meme stocks, saw its shares rise 1600% in January before paring much of those gains the following month.

Rocket's management has taken short-sellers of the stock head-on by recently announcing a $1.11 per share special dividend.Investor appetite toward mortgage vendors this month is a stark contrast to their recent outlook on the sector. A slew of canceled initial public offerings in recent months pointed to fears that the U.S. housing market may have reached a peak.

(Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru and Lewis Krauskopf in New York, Additional reporting by Lance Tupper in New York; Editing by Anirban Sen, Arun Koyyur, Ira Iosebashvili and Nick Zieminski)