Rocket Stock Is the New Meme Trade. Move Over, GameStop.
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    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,655,505 (-0.06%)       Melbourne $994,898 (+0.02%)       Brisbane $991,841 (+1.33%)       Adelaide $889,373 (+1.26%)       Perth $861,566 (+0.49%)       Hobart $729,893 (-1.65%)       Darwin $669,344 (+0.35%)       Canberra $999,769 (+1.27%)       National $1,055,910 (+0.34%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $749,436 (-0.10%)       Melbourne $494,327 (+0.46%)       Brisbane $554,094 (+2.77%)       Adelaide $439,361 (-1.14%)       Perth $456,655 (-0.27%)       Hobart $524,871 (-0.43%)       Darwin $349,455 (+1.52%)       Canberra $494,554 (-1.96%)       National $530,871 (+0.07%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 10,048 (-72)       Melbourne 14,823 (-272)       Brisbane 7,999 (+9)       Adelaide 2,372 (-66)       Perth 6,238 (-89)       Hobart 1,265 (-29)       Darwin 232 (-6)       Canberra 1,020 (0)       National 43,997 (-525)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,719 (-61)       Melbourne 8,033 (-189)       Brisbane 1,615 (-4)       Adelaide 391 (-5)       Perth 1,570 (-29)       Hobart 203 (-10)       Darwin 394 (-6)       Canberra 1,010 (+7)       National 21,935 (-297)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $820 ($0)       Melbourne $600 (-$10)       Brisbane $640 ($0)       Adelaide $610 ($0)       Perth $670 ($0)       Hobart $550 ($0)       Darwin $700 ($0)       Canberra $680 ($0)       National $668 (-$1)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $750 (-$25)       Melbourne $550 ($0)       Brisbane $630 ($0)       Adelaide $500 ($0)       Perth $640 (+$13)       Hobart $450 ($0)       Darwin $513 (+$13)       Canberra $570 ($0)       National $589 (-$2)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 5,497 (+71)       Melbourne 5,818 (+35)       Brisbane 4,141 (+99)       Adelaide 1,399 (0)       Perth 2,377 (+32)       Hobart 400 (+17)       Darwin 111 (+17)       Canberra 604 (+9)       National 20,347 (+280)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 9,083 (+248)       Melbourne 4,637 (+100)       Brisbane 2,182 (-27)       Adelaide 393 (+2)       Perth 731 (-10)       Hobart 130 (-7)       Darwin 144 (-8)       Canberra 684 (+72)       National 17,984 (+370)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 2.58% (↑)        Melbourne 3.14% (↓)       Brisbane 3.36% (↓)       Adelaide 3.57% (↓)       Perth 4.04% (↓)     Hobart 3.92% (↑)        Darwin 5.44% (↓)       Canberra 3.54% (↓)       National 3.29% (↓)            UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 5.20% (↓)       Melbourne 5.79% (↓)       Brisbane 5.91% (↓)     Adelaide 5.92% (↑)      Perth 7.29% (↑)      Hobart 4.46% (↑)      Darwin 7.63% (↑)      Canberra 5.99% (↑)        National 5.77% (↓)            HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.8% (↑)      Melbourne 0.7% (↑)      Brisbane 0.7% (↑)      Adelaide 0.4% (↑)      Perth 0.4% (↑)      Hobart 0.9% (↑)      Darwin 0.8% (↑)      Canberra 1.0% (↑)      National 0.7% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.9% (↑)      Melbourne 1.1% (↑)      Brisbane 1.0% (↑)      Adelaide 0.5% (↑)      Perth 0.5% (↑)      Hobart 1.4% (↑)      Darwin 1.7% (↑)      Canberra 1.4% (↑)      National 1.1% (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND       Sydney 30.3 (↑)      Melbourne 31.5 (↑)      Brisbane 31.7 (↑)        Adelaide 25.7 (↓)     Perth 35.4 (↑)      Hobart 33.7 (↑)        Darwin 36.2 (↓)     Canberra 32.0 (↑)        National 32.1 (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND       Sydney 31.3 (↑)      Melbourne 31.9 (↑)      Brisbane 32.1 (↑)        Adelaide 24.8 (↓)       Perth 38.7 (↓)     Hobart 37.6 (↑)        Darwin 46.5 (↓)     Canberra 39.2 (↑)        National 35.3 (↓)           
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Rocket Stock Is the New Meme Trade. Move Over, GameStop.

Rocket, the parent of Quicken Loans, has surged 28% this week.

By Orla McCaffrey
Thu, Mar 4, 2021 12:40amGrey Clock 4 min

The individual investors that powered GameStop Corp.’s meteoric rise have a new target: Rocket Cos., the parent company of Quicken Loans.

Shares of the mortgage lender surged 28% since the end of last week. Nearly 377 million shares traded hands on Tuesday alone, more than a 10-fold increase from the previous day. After surging 71% on Tuesday, the stock lost some steam on Wednesday, falling 33%, or $13.59, to $28.01.

Like GameStop, Rocket is heavily shorted. As of this week, 46% of its shares available for trading were being shorted by investors betting the price would fall, according to S3 Partners, a data-analytics firm. That was up from about 33% in late January and 17% in mid-September, according to FactSet.

Trading of Rocket shares was halted several times this week because of its volatility.

Individual investors on WallStreetBets, the Reddit community that gave birth to GameStop’s rise, have been encouraging each other to buy the stock in recent days and sharing evidence of their own massive gains. They have relished in the company’s name——Rocket——an apt one for their goal of higher prices.

“The $RKT is fueled and ready for liftoff,” one user wrote early this week.

The company stock symbol, RKT, was mentioned in nearly 16,000 Reddit comments on Tuesday, according to data from TopStonks.com, a website that tracks equities mentioned on Reddit. That is up from just over 6,000 on Monday and less than 1,000 on most days last week.

Rocket announced last week it would pay a one-time dividend of $1.11 per share later this month, citing its “highly profitable and capital light business model.” Some investors saw the move as a way to fend off short sellers. Short sellers are obliged to pay any dividends to the broker they borrowed shares from.

The company’s excess capital at the end of the fourth quarter made the dividend possible, Rocket CEO Jay Farner said at a conference Wednesday morning.

“We were pretty proud to be able to offer that to our shareholders,” Mr Farner said. “We think more of dividends as special dividends because we want that flexibility to make the right investment for the long-term growth of the organisation.”

Rocket has other upsides. Rising mortgage rates are boosting earning potential for mortgage lenders just as the crucial spring home-selling season kicks off. The average rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 2.97% recently, its highest level since August.

Detroit-based Rocket is the largest mortgage lender in the U.S., according to research firm Inside Mortgage Finance. Its $323 billion in home loans in 2020 easily surpassed the $221 billion originated by its closest competitor, Wells Fargo & Co. Its large size and strong brand—it ran two Super Bowl commercials—set it apart from other non-bank lenders.

Before Rocket’s blastoff, shares of nonbank mortgage lenders had done little to impress investors in recent months. Some of the lenders that listed their shares on the public market in recent months significantly downsized their offerings. Some never made it to market because of tepid investor interest.

Shares of Rocket hadn’t strayed too far from their listing price of $18 in the seven months since the company’s IPO. The stock soared to more than $31 in its first month but quickly returned to near $20.

The first sign of liftoff came late last week, when Rocket reported impressive fourth-quarter results. Shares rose almost 10% on Friday. The news of a sizable dividend prompted Rocket’s initial jump in stock price, said KBW analyst Bose George.

“The initial move made some sense, but since then, fundamentals haven’t been driving it,” Mr George said. “It’s other factors that we have a harder time assessing.”

Shortly before its public-market debut last summer, Rocket announced an ambitious expansion target: cornering 25% of the mortgage market over the next decade. Its market share currently stands at about a third of that, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

Rocket said last week that its mortgage originations more than doubled in 2020. It said it expects continued high origination levels despite weakening margins.

The amount lenders earn when they sell each loan has started to drop. Quicken’s gain-on-sale margin was 4.41% in the fourth quarter, down from the third quarter but well above the 3.41% it recorded a year earlier. It expects its first-quarter margin to be between 3.6% and 3.9%.

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert helped found Quicken Loans in the 1980s and still holds the majority of its shares.

Ali Habhab has watched the stock’s recent ride with interest but doesn’t plan to sell his shares any time soon. Mr. Habhab, who is 25 years old, instead hopes his returns will bring him closer to his goal of retiring at 40. He bought 1,000 shares in Rocket shortly after the company’s IPO in August.

Mr. Habhab, who works in automotive manufacturing, said he was familiar with Quicken Loans long before parent company Rocket decided to go public. Mr. Habhab lives in Detroit, where Rocket is based, and has friends who started careers at the company or one of its subsidiaries.

“With all that factored in, it was a no-brainer to put some of my money where it belongs and where it will grow,” Mr Habhab said.

Another major nonbank mortgage lender, UWM Holdings Corp. is up 27% so far this week.



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The Loneliness of the American Worker

More meetings and faceless chats. Fewer work friends. How the modern workday is fueling an epidemic of isolation.

By TE-PING CHEN
Wed, May 29, 2024 6 min

More Americans are profoundly lonely, and the way they work—more digitally linked but less personally connected—is deepening that sense of isolation.

Nick Skarda , 29 years old, works two jobs in logistics and office administration in San Diego to keep up with his bills. After a couple of years at the logistics job, he has one friend there. He says hi to co-workers at his office job but doesn’t really know any.

“I feel sort of an emptiness or lack of belonging,” he says. Juggling two jobs leaves Skarda exhausted, with little energy or time to grab drinks with co-workers . “It makes it harder to go in and give it your all if you don’t feel like anyone is there rooting for you,” he adds.

Employers and researchers are just beginning to understand how workplace shifts over the past four years are contributing to what the U.S. surgeon general declared a loneliness health epidemic last year. The alienation affects remote and in-person workers alike. Among 1-800-Flowers.com ’s 5,000 hybrid and fully on-site employees, for instance, the most popular community chat group offered by a company mental-health provider is simply called “Loneliness.”

Consider these phenomena of modern work:

It is a marked shift from even a decade ago, when bonds fostered at work helped compensate for declining participation in church , community groups and other social institutions. As the American workday becomes more faceless and scheduled , the number of U.S. adults who call themselves lonely has climbed to 58% from 46% in 2018, according to a recent Cigna poll of 10,000 Americans.

The faceless workday

The disconnection is driving up staff turnover and worker absences, making it a business issue for more employers, executives and researchers say. Cigna, the health-insurance company, estimates that loneliness is costing companies $154 billion a year in absenteeism alone.

“Work is social, it’s a lot more than a paycheck,” says James McCann , founder and chairman of 1-800-Flowers.com.

Earlier this year, 1-800-Flowers.com moved from three days in the office to four to boost a sense of connectivity among workers. It has also begun tapping workers across teams to serve as designated hosts during lunchtime, encouraging people to sit with colleagues they don’t know in common areas and chat, and suggesting conversation topics.

While today’s workers have more ways to connect than ever, “there are only so many memes and jokes you can send over Slack,” says Maëlle Gavet , chief executive of Techstars, a pre-seed fund that has invested in 4,100 startups. “We tend to have more and more people with back-to-back calendars, more meetings and less connections.”

Gavet says that is especially the case for hybrid workers on in-office days, which they tend to use to dash from one meeting to the next.

Paradoxically, meetings can make people feel lonelier—and even more so if the meetings are virtual, behavioural researchers say. A 2023 survey by employee experience and analytics company Perceptyx found people who described themselves as “very lonely” tended to have heavier meeting loads than less-lonely staffers. More than 40% of those people spent more than half their work hours in meetings.

In Cincinnati, Kelly Roehm says she came to chafe at the meetings—sometimes as many as 12—consuming her day after joining a consulting company in 2021. She would often feel her eyes glazing over as she multitasked on other screens.

“It’s like you’re a zombie, there but not there,” says Roehm, who lived 10 minutes from the office but worked mostly remotely because she says few colleagues typically came in. It is a more common setup as companies distribute teams across more locations: At Microsoft , 27% of the company’s teams all worked in the same location last year, compared with 61% in 2019.

She compares that experience with her time more than a decade ago at a company now owned by AstraZeneca . There, she enjoyed lots of social outlets at work: a Weight Watchers group and a lunchtime crochet club.

“Now if I were to think about asking, ‘Hey, do you want to participate in something like this,’ it would just sound weird,” says Roehm, who left this year to focus on her own career-consulting business. “There wasn’t that emotional attachment that made it difficult to say, it’s time to move on.”

The power of small talk

Office chitchat, sometimes an unwanted distraction, seems to provide more benefits than many people realise, says Jessica Methot , an associate professor at Rutgers University who studies social ties at work.

In a study of 100 employees at different workplaces, Methot and fellow researchers surveyed participants at points throughout the day. They found those who had engaged in small talk reported less stress and more positivity toward co-workers.

Even exchanging pleasantries with a co-worker you barely know can help, says Sarah Wright , an associate professor at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury who studies worker loneliness.

“We used to think loneliness has to be overcome by developing meaningful relationships and having that degree of intimacy,” Wright says. “More and more, though, we’re seeing it’s these day-to-day weak ties and frequency of [interactions] with people that matters.”

Such interactions are substantially harder to replicate in a virtual environment. “The default now is, I have to schedule time with you, even if it’s five minutes, instead of just picking up the phone,” says Katie Tyson , president of Hive Brands, an online food retailer founded in 2020 as a fully remote company.

The frictions add up, she says. Last fall, the company added an office in New York where employees voluntarily gather a couple of times a week to foster more cohesion.

Coming to the office, even on a hybrid basis, tends to yield a roughly 20% to 30% boost in serendipitous connections, according to Syndezo, which analysed survey data and email and messaging traffic from more than two dozen large companies.

Yet there are diminishing returns to time in person, says Philip Arkcoll , founder of Worklytics, which analyses workforce data for Fortune 500 companies. Coming in once a month provides a significant boost in ties; two or three times a month adds a little more, Worklytics data show. Once or twice a week results in a smaller increase, though, and working in-person four or five days a week makes almost no difference.

A business priority

Ernst & Young has asked managers to use the first five minutes of team calls to engage in conversation “as real human beings,” says Frank Giampietro , whose title, chief well-being officer for the Americas, was created in 2021 to help support employees during the pandemic.

The professional-services firm is also training employees to spot and reach out to co-workers struggling with issues such as isolation. To date, more than 1,600 employees have taken the training.

One challenge is that American workers have sacrificed connection for productivity, says Julie Rice , co-founder of fitness chain SoulCycle. These days, with more business contacts preferring video calls, she finds breakfast meetings and coffee dates on her calendar have been replaced with Zoom. Though efficient, such video calls are less likely to yield conversations that can turn into useful professional connections or lasting friendships, she says.

Julie Rice says that her work schedule, once packed with coffees and in-person meetups, is now an avalanche of Zooms. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER GREGORY-RIVERA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“Even people I’m meeting with here in New York, we’ll just Zoom,” she says.

Last year, Rice co-founded Peoplehood, a company that runs “gathers” to improve connectivity and relationship skills, and employers are signing up. One, a beauty-services business with hundreds of field employees who never see each other, asked Peoplehood to host a series of gatherings for workers to meet and share job advice. Another, a marketing company with far-flung employees, requested help after surveys showed staff wanted to feel more connected.

“Whatever relationships we had pre-Covid have sort of run out of gas,” Rice says.

Good luck prodding employees to socialise, though. Nearly all the 150-odd staff at the Pleasanton, Calif., headquarters of Shaklee, the nutrition-supplements company, used to attend annual Earth Day gatherings, which involved community service, lunch and breaking early for the day, says Jonathan Ramot , the company’s North American human-resources director. Office happy hours, bowling outings and “mix and mingles” were also robustly attended.

Now that the workforce has gone remote, last year’s Earth Day event attracted 20 staffers, even though most workers live nearby.

“We have a lot of people asking for in-person events, but when we plan them, they don’t show up,” Ramot says. “Then they complain they’re lonely.”

This past April, Shaklee instead held a mandatory get-together with the chief executive, who had relocated to Florida during the pandemic and was in town. About 100 employees gathered at a brewery for food, drinks and conversation—and no speeches from the bosses.

There was a buzz in the air, Ramot says, as staff hugged and delighted in seeing each other, some for the first time. “People were saying, I miss this,” he says.

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