Housing

Homebuilders: Growth Play, Value Play, or Short? (NVR, TOL, PHM, HOV, DHI, BZH, KBH, LEN, HD, LOW)

Virtually every publicly traded homebuilder stock has posted a new 52-week high in the last month and many now trade above their consensus target prices even though they have come off those highs somewhat. The stocks were so beaten down until early this year, that most have doubled or better since the beginning of the year.

But what’s going to happen now? The home-buying market is entering its slow period this quarter, and depending on the winter weather, homebuilding could be slower through March. This year’s building spurt started in February because the weather co-operated. We’ve looked at several homebuilding and home improvement stocks that could help investors decide how the market is going to play out over the next several months.

The stocks we looked at are NVR Corp. (NYSE: NVR), Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE: TOL), PulteGroup Inc. (NYSE: PHM), Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: HOV), DR Horton Inc. (NYSE: DHI), Beazer Homes USA Inc. (NYSE: BZH), KB Home (NYSE: KBH), Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN), The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD), and Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW).

NVR Corp. (NYSE: NVR) traded at $893.85 and has a market value of around $4.3 billion. The consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $894.20 and the 52-week range is $613.77 to $915.05. NVR does not pay a dividend. The implied upside to the consensus target is less than 1%, and we note that the target is well below the 52-week high. Trailing P/E is 30.15 and forward P/E is 18.72. Short interest in the stock totals about 205,000 shares as of October 15th, or 4.5% of the float.

Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE: TOL) traded at $34.09 and has a market value of around $5.7 billion. The consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $34.88 and the 52-week range is $16.77 to $37.08. Toll Brothers does not pay a dividend. The implied upside to the consensus target is about 2%, and we note that the target is well below the 52-week high. Trailing P/E is 63.13 and forward P/E is 31.28. Short interest in the stock totals about 9.14 million shares, or 6% of the float.

PulteGroup Inc. (NYSE: PHM) traded at $16.69 and has a market value of around $6.5 billion. The consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $15.39 and the 52-week range is $4.77 to $18.30. PulteGroup does not pay a dividend. Today’s share price exceeds the consensus target price and the target is well below the 52-week high. Trailing P/E is negative and forward P/E is 18.45. Short interest in the stock totals about 26.2 million shares, or 7.6% of the float.

Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: HOV) traded at $4.34 and has a market value of around $575 million. The consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $3.04 and the 52-week range is $1.20 to $4.55. Hovnanian does not pay a dividend. Today’s share price exceeds the consensus target price. Trailing and forward P/E are both negative. Short interest in the stock totals about 28.2 million shares, or 27.1% of the float.

DR Horton Inc. (NYSE: DHI) traded at $20.80 and has a market value of around $6.65 billion. The consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $20.59 and the 52-week range is $10.74 to $22.79. DR Horton pays a dividend yield of 0.7%. Today’s share price exceeds the consensus target price. Trailing P/E is 7.84 and forward P/E is 22.87. Short interest in the stock totals about 34 million shares, or 12% of the float.

Beazer Homes USA Inc. (NYSE: BZH) traded at $17.39 and has a market value of around $344 million. The consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $15.90 and the 52-week range is $8.95 to $20.15. Beazer does not pay a dividend. The implied upside to the consensus target is about 1%, and we note that the target is below the 52-week high. Trailing and forward P/E are both negative. Short interest in the stock totals about 5.5 million shares, or 27% of the float. Beazer held a reverse split of 1-for-5 shares earlier this month.

KB Home (NYSE: KBH) traded at $16.18 and has a market value of around $1.26 billion. The consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $13.96 and the 52-week range is $6.17 to $17.30. KB Home pays a dividend yield of 0.6%. Today’s share price exceeds the consensus target price. Trailing P/E is negative and forward P/E is 116.16. Short interest in the stock totals about 26.65 million shares, or 40.6% of the float.

Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN) traded at $36.99 and has a market value of around $7 billion. The consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $36.86 and the 52-week range was $15.61 to $39.25. Lennar pays a dividend yield of 0.4%. Today’s share price exceeds the consensus target price. Trailing P/E is 13.34 and forward P/E is 23.54. Short interest in the stock totals about 33.9 million shares, or 22.3% of the float.

The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) traded at $60.54 and has a market value of around $91.2 billion. The consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $60.35 and the 52-week range was $34.58 to $63.20. Home Depot pays a dividend yield of 1.9%. The current price is above the target, and we note that the target is well below the 52-week high. Trailing P/E is 21.73 and forward P/E is 17.88. Short interest in the stock totals about 20 million shares, or 1.6% of the float.

Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) traded at $31.85 and has a market value of around $36.3 billion. The consensus target price from Thomson Reuters is $31.09 and the 52-week range is $20.34 to $33.29. Lowe’s pays a dividend yield of 2%. The current price is above the target, and we note that the target is below the 52-week high. Trailing P/E is 21.33 and forward P/E is 15.75. Short interest in the stock totals about 19.6 million shares, or 1.7% of the float.

With implied gains of no more than 1% or 2% and most with current prices above targets, their really don’t appear to be any value plays here. Inventories of homes for sale are shrinking and prices have been rising as interest rates continue to be near all-time lows.

Even given the surge in homebuilding over the past several months, there is still a shortfall of about 1 million new home sales between 2012 and the heady days of 2005. There is plenty of room for growth, but will the U.S. economy come around fast enough to support a higher rate of home-buying?

Most forecasts for economic growth in 2013 are below 3%, which is not going to support huge growth in home-buying, but is it low enough to send homebuilders’ stocks plunging again?

The general view is that home construction continues to recover, but that the recovery is not steadily upward and certainly not at a very fast rate. A growth play will require patience — and a short play will require timing. A clear choice, if not a simple one.

Paul Ausick