What ever happened to that prolonged, multiyear housing market recovery? Maybe the private equity buyers bought up all the bargains so fast that public transition cycle from owner to renter back to owner just couldn’t even compete. Whatever the reasons are that you choose to use, the new home market and homebuilders are simply not enjoying this bull market in stocks.
After you consider that new single-family home sales were down by more than 8% in June, you should consider that the stock market as a whole is effectively at an all-time high on the major indexes. And stocks of the homebuilders — and their ETFs — are trading lower and way off their recent 52-week highs. Now consider that almost all of these are still down handily from their pre-recession highs, when homebuilder stocks were the best thing since sliced bread.
Could homebuilder stocks be destined to challenge their 52-week lows in the coming weeks or months?
On top of that 8.1% drop in new home sales, consider that D.R. Horton Inc. (NYSE: DHI) gave a weak earnings report, to the tune that a big dividend hike did not even matter. Its shares were down more than 10% at $22.27 in mid-day trading Thursday, on nearly three-times normal trading volume with 14 million shares having traded. Raising its dividend did nothing.
D.R. Horton’s inventory impairments led the wave of charges, as did land option charges. The backlog rose 15% and the value of backlog increased 26%, but the cancellation rate was a whopping 24%. Still, D.R. Horton’s total revenue was up almost 28% from a year ago. Its stock may not be headed to 52-week lows, with a 52-week range of $17.52 to $25.23.
iShares U.S. Home Construction (NYSEMKT: ITB) is the real homebuilder ETF with the largest constituents being actual homebuilders rather than retailers who cater to builders. This ETF was down 2.9% at $23.50 in mid-day trading on Thursday, versus a 52-week range of $20.18 to $26.56. This doesn’t mean a 52-week high is coming any time soon, but the so-called summer housing rally now looks further and further from coming.
SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (NYSEMKT: XHB) is another active homebuilder ETF, though it weights many retailers targeted at sales for household items and building products players equally as homebuilder stocks themselves. At $31.16, this ETF was down only 1.3% in mid-day trading on Thursday. Its 52-week range is $28.16 to $34.27.
The carnage is high elsewhere in mid-day trading as well. Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE: TOL) was down more than 4% at $34.52, versus a 52-week range of $29.64 to $39.95.
Is it fair to ask if homebuilders are going to challenge 52-week lows when the reality is that they have only pulled back halfway from their highs? It may seem like a stretch, but consider what happens if you have another month or two of poor homebuilder data. Now imagine you have more weak earnings reports from the public homebuilders themselves. And throw in the possibility of a much-needed market correction that so many market participants keep hoping for.
Suddenly the homebuilder 52-week low analogy isn’t such a stretch. Sectors that are weak performers during favorable market conditions are generally meant to be avoided if you get weak market conditions.
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