Following about 10 months of mostly steady improvement in share prices, growth has flattened out a little in the homebuilders’ stocks. Upbeat reports on the state of the housing market, historically low interest rates, and the improvement in the overall U.S. economy sent more buyers into the market.
A recent seasonal slowdown has manifested itself, though, and the question for investors is whether or not the market will pick-up or continue its slow pace. Today’s report from the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) did not sound encouraging, and stocks of Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN), Ryland Group Inc. (NYSE: RYL), Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE: TOL), KB Home (NYSE: KBH), Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: HOV), NVR Corp. (NYSE: NVR), and D.R. Horton Inc. (NYSE: DHI) are all down anywhere from about 0.4% (Toll Brothers) to about 4.3% (Hovnanian).
Inventories are low and they are not growing at pre-housing crisis rates. Not even close really. The NAHB attributes that partly to more costly materials, lack of workers, and fewer lots for sale. It’s kind of a vicious circle: new home inventory is low but demand — as measured by foot traffic in the NAHB’s February index — ticked down last month. If it ever picks up again, there won’t be enough inventory to entice buyers over the peak summer selling season, and the whole slow-growth period could keep up for another cycle.