Housing Prices Are Way Up, But Experts Disagree on Why

Photo courtesy of thejewishdenver.com

Photo courtesy of thejewishdenver.com

What is driving the recent rapid rise in housing prices? And is this a sign of a sustained economic recovery? Those were among the questions during a segment covering U.S. housing on CNBC May 28 (http://www.cnbc.com/id/100769361). Home prices during the first quarter of 2013 were up by 10.2 percent nationally, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Index, the highest since 2007. Phoenix and Las Vegas, two of the regions hit hardest by the recession, were up the most.

Experts point to the very low mortgage rates (held artificially low by the Fed) and the low inventory of houses as among the reasons for the increase. Very few new houses are being built so sales are cutting into the inventory, increasing demand for the few left for sale.

Those who believe the housing market will continue to prosper say population growth will be a driver: One million new households a year are being created. Naysayers, who believe the price increases are not sustainable, say the market is being driven by investors who are buying and renting. They also point to still low construction employment numbers and the fact that college graduates, who should be a major factor in first time homebuyers, are not getting jobs and are shackled with $1 trillion in student loan debt.

While there is little doubt that houses are being appraised at higher prices, the small cap home builders, who had been on a tear since last summer, have seen their valuations flatten out. Here is an update on the home builders we have been following for the past year:

Red Bank, NJ-based Hovnanian Enterprises (NYSE: HOV, http://www.khov.com/) specializes in single-family detached homes, condominiums and town homes and operates in two segments: homebuilding and financial services.  As recently as October 2011 HOV was trading for $0.89. But since March HOV has been hovering around the $6 mark. HOV closed May 28 at $6.15, up 11 cents for the day with a market cap of $856 million. Its 52-week trading range is $1.52-$7.43.

Los Angeles-based KB Home (NYSE: KBH, http://www.kbhome.com/) is a home building and financial services company catering in large part to first time buyers. KB is an old Southern California home builder, founded in 1957 and formerly called Kaufman and Broad. As recently as last Aug. 31 KBH traded for $11.04 with a market cap of $851 million. It closed May 28 at $23.16, up 5 cents for the day with a market cap of $1.9 billion. Its 52-week trading range is $6.46-$25.14.

Columbus, OH-based M/I Homes Inc. (NYSE: MHO, http://www.mihomes.com/) builds single family homes primarily in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and southern parts of the U.S. The  company was founded in 1973 and, like most of the other builders, has homebuilding and financial services divisions. It also had a run up into March and closed March 20 at $26.03 with a market cap of $584 million. MHO closed May 28 at $26.47, up 29 cents for the day. Its 52-week trading range is $12.24-$29.07.

Atlanta-based Beazer Homes USA (NYSE: BZH, http://www.beazer.com/) builds and sells single-family and multiple-family homes in 16 states in the U.S. It also acquires, improves and rents homes. The company operates through commissioned home sales counselors and independent brokers. Back in mid-September BZH was trading for $3.77. It closed March 20 at $16.86 with a market cap of $410 million. On May 28, BZH closed at $21.79, up 44 cents for the day, with a market cap of $547 million. Its 52-week trading range is $3.46-$23.29.

Irvine, CA-based Standard Pacific (NYSE: SPF, http://www.standardpacifichomes.com/) builds single family and detached homes and targets a wide range of homebuyers. It also provides mortage financing services through its mortage finance subsidiary, Standard Pacific Mortgage. SPF closed March 20 at $9.07 with a market cap of $1.9 billion. It closed May 28 at $9.52 down 16 cents with a market cap of $2.1 billion. Its 52-week range is $4.39-$9.97.

Westlake Village, CA-based The Ryland Group (NYSE: RYL, http://www.ryland.com/) is a homebuilder and mortage finance company. RYL covers many aspects of the home buying process including design, construction, title insurance and escrow. RYL closed March 20 at $42.16 with a market cap of $1.9 billion. It closed May 28 at $47.60, down 86 cents, with a market cap of $2.2 billion. Its 52-week trading range is $19.25-$50.42.

Advertisements

It’s a Small Cap World (for Now) – Russell 2000 Index Up nearly 18 Percent for Year

Graphic courtesy of Russell Investments

 

The stock market finally “took a breather” on Monday of this week, as the Wall Street Journal characterized it. The resilient bull market of 2013 has seen only four sessions in May that had a decline in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and Monday was one of them. This year’s bull market rally has recently been across the board–Asian markets have been up, European markets turned up, and market watchers are anxiously waiting for tomorrow, Wednesday, May 22, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to testify to Congress and the Fed releases the minutes from its last public policy-setting meeting. Will Bernanke offer up any clues about his next steps?

Most importantly for Smallcap World, the Russell 2000 index, which tracks the performance of smallcap U.S. equities, climbed above the 1,000 level for the first time Monday, a metric that MarketWatch considers “psychologically important” for smallcap stocks. As of Monday morning, May 20, the Russell 2000 was up 17.9 percent for the year-to-date, according to FactSet (The Associated Press reported the Russell 2000 up 17.5 percent for the year).

The conventional wisdom is that small caps stock are doing well because they are more U.S. focused than the large caps, which tend to be multi-national. And the U.S. economy is recovering as opposed to other economies around the world. But many large caps are doing well, too,

You don’t have to look far to find small cap stocks at 52-week highs, even “all time highs.” Of course the question always is, how much higher can these stocks go? Buy now or wait for the correction that so many experts have been predicting is right around the corner for months now?

We’ve selected a few stocks we know are at all-time or 52-week highs, and others we’ve covered lately that seem to be on the upswing.

Calabasas, CA-based National Technical Systems * (Nasdaq: NTSC, http://www.nts.com/) is a relatively unknown smallcap stock but also the world’s largest independent engineering services and testing company. It’s biggest markets include aerospace and defense, but also works in the automotive and telecommunications markets, among others. NTSC closed at an all-time high of $13.09, up 94 cents on May 21, with a market cap now of about $150 million. NTSC is lightly traded, only about 7,500 shares a day, although that is trending up. 

Northville, MI-based Gentherm * Incorporated (Nasdaq: THRM, http://www.gentherm.com/) is a global developer and marketer of thermal management technologies for a broad range of heating and cooling and temperature control technologies. Best known for its Climate Control Seat systems that actively heat and cool seats in more than 50 vehicles made by the world’s leading automobile manufacturers, Gentherm (formerly called Amerigon) has branched out into heated and cooled bedding systems, cupholders, storage bins and office chairs. THRM also reached a 52-week high of more than $18 this week, then closed May 20 at $17.78, down 33 cents for the day. Its market cap is now $594 million. As recently as last July THRM was trading at just above $10.

We recently featured Cincinnati-based LSI Industries (Nasdaq: LYTS, http://www.lsi-industries.com/) , a company that offers a different take on an LED lighting company. LYTS creates LED video screens and LED specialty lighting for sports stadiums and arenas, digital billboards and entertainment companies. It closed April 29 at $7.09 with a market cap of $170 million. LYTS closed May 21 at $8, up 1 cent for the day, with a market cap now of $192 million.

Analysts at CRT Capital recently upgraded Atlanta-based Beazer Homes USA (NYSE: BZH, http://www.beazer.com/), a company that builds and sells single-family and multiple-family homes in 16 states in the U.S., to a “Buy” with a $29 price target. BZH also acquires, improves and rents homes. The company operates through commissioned home sales counselors and independent brokers. As recently as last Sept. 14 BZH was trading for $3.77. It closed March 20 at $16.86 with a market cap of $410 million. BZH closed May 21 at $21.75, down 98 cents for the day. Its market cap is now $538 million.

San Jose, CA-based SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWR, http://www.sunpowercorp.com/), like many solar stocks, have been on the upswing lately. SPWR closed May 8 at $15.36, down 6 cents for the day, with a market cap of $1.8 billion. It closed May 21 at $21, down $1.70 for the day but got up to $23.76 just last week. Its 52-week trading range is now $3.71-$23.76.

Fremont, CA-based Procera Networks (Nasdaq: PKT, http://www.proceranetworks.com/) works with mobile and broadband network operators providing intelligent policy enforcement solutions for managing private networks. PKT’s products are sold under the PacketLogic brand name to more than 600 customers in North America, Europe and Asia. PKT’s 52-week trading range is $10.12-$25.99. At mid-day May 2 it was trading at $11.22, with a market cap of $229 million. At market close May 21 PKT was trading at $13.89, down 3 cents for the day, with a market cap of $282 million.

* Denotes client of Allen & Caron Inc., publisher of this blog.

Turnaround in Housing Market, Low Inventory Causing ‘Bubblelike Price Jumps’

Photo courtesy ownthedollar.com

Photo courtesy ownthedollar.com

Home construction was an important topic this week, with the release of data showing construction on new U.S. homes in February showed “gains for single family residences and apartments as longer-term trends signaled a housing market that continued to strengthen,” according to the Wall Street Jounal’s Market Watch.

In fact, the turnaround in the housing market, after so many months of lagging demand, has caught home builders off guard, according to the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/21/business/economy/in-us-surprise-housing-demand-catches-industry-off-guard.html?ref=business&_r=0). “After six years of waiting on the sidelines, newly eager home buyers across the country are discovering that there are not enough houses for sale to accommodate the recent flush of demand,” noted the Times report.

That’s leading a rush for the new but still limited inventory and “bubblelike price jumps” in areas that have been hit hard in recent years. Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index shows that prices nationwide rose 7.3 percent throughout 2012 but in places like Sacramento, CA and Phoenix, the prices have risen 35 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Part of what’s driving the market is the improved economy, but the low interest rates are also playing an important role, noted experts in the Times story.

Certainly this is great news for investors in small cap housing stocks, who have already enjoyed a great return if they invested last Fall. Their only issue now is whether to sell and take some profits or continue to enjoy the rise.

Here are six small cap home builders we last covered Sept. 14:

Red Bank, NJ-based Hovnanian Enterprises (NYSE: HOV, http://www.khov.com/) specializes in single-family detached homes, condominiums and town homes and operates in two segments: homebuilding and financial services.  In October 2011 HOV was trading for $0.89. By Sept. 14, 2012 it had jumped to $3.89, with a market cap of $515 million. HOV closed March 20 at $6.32, up 13 cents for the day. HOV’s market cap is now $879 million and 52-week trading range is $1.52-$7.43.

Los Angeles-based KB Home (NYSE: KBH, http://www.kbhome.com/) is a home building and financial services company catering in large part to first time buyers. KB is an old Southern California home builder, founded in 1957 and formerly called Kaufman and Broad. Back on Aug. 31 KBH closed at $11.04 with a market cap of $851 million. It closed Sept. 14 at $13.65, pushing its market cap up to $1.05 billion. KBH closed March 20 at $21.57, up 54 cents with a market cap of $1.67 billion. Its 52-week trading range is $6.46-$21.79.

Columbus, OH-based M/I Homes Inc. (NYSE: MHO, http://www.mihomes.com/) builds single family homes primarily in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and southern parts of the U.S. The  company was founded in 1973 and, like most of the other builders, has homebuilding and financial services divisions. It closed Sept. 14 at $20.77, with a market cap of $379 million. MHO closed March 20 at $26.03, up 86 cents on the day, and now has a market cap of $584 million. Its 52-week trading range is $11.25-$29.07.

Atlanta-based Beazer Homes USA (NYSE: BZH, http://www.beazer.com/) builds and sells single-family and multiple-family homes in 16 states in the U.S. It also acquires, improves and rents homes. The company operates through commissioned home sales counselors and independent brokers. At the close on Sept. 14 BZH was trading for $3.77. It closed March 20 at $16.86, up 19 cents for the day, with a market cap of $410 million. Its 52-week trading range is $10-90-$20.15.

Irvine, CA-based Standard Pacific (NYSE: SPF, http://www.standardpacifichomes.com/) builds single family and detached homes and targets a wide range of homebuyers. It also provides mortage financing services through its mortage finance subsidiary, Standard Pacific Mortgage. SPF closed Sept. 14 at $7.46, up 19 cents for the day and setting a new 52-week high, with a market cap of $1.49 billion. It closed March 20 at $9.07, up 35 cents for the day, with a market cap of $1.9 billion. Its 52-week range is $4.12-$9.18.

Westlake Village, CA-based The Ryland Group (NYSE: RYL, http://www.ryland.com/) is a homebuilder and mortage finance company. RYL covers many aspects of the home buying process including design, construction, title insurance and escrow. It closed Sept. 14 at $31.52, also setting a new 52-week high, with a market cap of $1.41 billion. RYL closed March 20 at $42.16, up $1.61 for the day, with a market cap of $1.9 billion. Its 52-week trading range is $17.18-$43.

Ahoy! Small Cap Dry-Bulk Shipping Stocks Soaring to Start the New Year

Photo courtesy of ship.gr

Photo courtesy of ship.gr

Shipping stocks, mostly in the dumps for the past 12 months due to what is generally considered an oversupply of ships, have enjoyed a nice ride in the early days of 2013. For the first time since November, the Baltic Dry Index, a measure of costs to ship what are called “dry-bulk commodities,” including coal, iron ore, fertilizers and a variety of grains, showed some serious signs of life. The index was up 0.3 percent in the first week of January, which is great news considering 2012 was the worst year for the index since 1986, according to a report on Yahoo! Finance from Five Star Equities (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/baltic-dry-index-posts-first-132000229.html).

The report also listed several other promising signs for the dry bulk shipping industries: Shipping rates for the largest vessels, called Capesize, which ship iron ore and coal have risen 2.2 percent. And thanks to new demand from China, iron ore shipments are expected to continue to rise. If so, this could be a boom with legs.

Thanks to this news, the Guggenheim Shipping ETF (NYSE: SEA) is enjoying a nice run. Back on November 15 SEA closed at $14.49. It closed January 9 at $19.09, up 20 cents for the day.

There are several small cap dry-bulk shippers that bear watching in the coming weeks. Here are some randomly chosen names:

Athens-based Safe Bulkers (NYSE: SB, http://www.safebulkers.com/) is a holding company with 33 subsidiaries and a fleet of 20 drybulk vessels. The fleet consists of five Panamax, three Kamsarmax, 10 post-Panamax and two Capesize vessels. SB purchased two vessels (a post-Panamax and Capesize) during 2011. The 52-week trading range for SB is $3.12-$7.73 and its market cap is $314 million. SB closed Jan. 9 at $4.10, up 6 cents for the day.

Athens-based Star Bulk Carriers (Nasdaq: SBLK, http://www.starbulk.com/en/home) owns and operates a fleet of 14 vessels including six Capesize carriers and eight Supramax carriers. Two of the carriers were purchased in 2011. SBLK’s 52-week trading range is $5.88-$18.90 and its market cap is $38 million. It closed Jan. 9 at $7.06, up 11 cents for the day.

Athens-based Paragon Shipping * (NYSE: PRGN, http://www.paragonship.com/) has a fleet of 12 vessels. PRGN’s 52-week trading range is $1.91-$10.40 and its market cap is $27 million. Its stock has been a high-flyer recently and closed Jan. 9 at $4.42, up 77 cents for the day. Just last Friday, Jan. 4, it was trading at $2.50.

Piraeus, Greece-based Navios Maritime Holdings (NYSE: NM, http://www.navios.com/) has tanker and logistics business divisions as well as a dry-bulk fleet (total number of vessels is 31 plus 26 chartered vessels it operates). NM’s 52-week trading range is $3.08-$4.49 and its market cap is $380 million. It closed Jan. 9 at $3.76, up 4 cents on the day.

* Denotes client of Allen & Caron Inc., publisher of this blog

Buzz Zaino: Royce Fund Manager Sees Strong Growth Upside for 2013, Boosted by Housing, Transportation, IT Spending

ZainoB_gBoniface A. (“Buzz”) Zaino is a portfolio manager advising several of the high-profile Royce Funds, to wit, the Royce Opportunity Fund and associated funds. By any measure a veteran of the industry, Buzz has more than 40 years of experience in the financial services industry, the last 14 with Royce. I first met him when he was managing the Value Added Funds for Trust Company of the West more than 20 years ago, but prior to that he was president of the Lehman Capital Fund and a principal of the “original” Lehman Brothers. He went to school at Fordham, and took his MBA from Columbia. In 44 years, Buzz has seen enough economic cycles to offer an MBA from the University of Zaino.

Buzz agreed to talk about his 2013 outlook from his home in Aspen which, like much of the US snow belt, has seen little of the white stuff so far this year.

JA: It seems generally agreed that the US economy is growing at a slower pace than it has coming out of previous recessionary periods. What is your outlook for 2013? Will the economy continue to grow, and if so, will it grow at the same rate, faster or slower?

BZ: The reason that the US economy has had a slow lift-off has been that coming out of recessions in the past, the Fed has lowered interest rates, and people took that opportunity to buy houses and cars. This recession was different, because the banks were not giving out money, because money was scarcer and because bank lending standards were significantly more stringent. So there was a hiatus and it took a lot longer for the economy to recover. The recovery finally started this year, 2012, and it is finally beginning to give a boost to the economy, especially as construction gets going again. That boost is going to continue, and it will help us accelerate in 2013. But the recovery was complicated by the fact that Europe went into recession. American companies tend to be worldwide in scope, and caution at the top levels helped bring inventory levels down due to the European recession. That meant that capital spending was also muted. I think that capital spending is also constrained in anticipation of the budget settlement that is still out in the future. A “normal” recovery was delayed until 2012, and then delayed again by the European recession. But those delays now give us the opportunity to accelerate as 2013 progresses.

JA: Will we get a budget?

BZ: Sooner or later, yes. We will get a budget deal out of Congress. Once we have that deal defined, we can go forward from there. That will be a positive, and will be on top of the acceleration we can expect from normal factors like housing and auto sales. We could get a nice surprise in 2013. But we’re cautious about January.

JA: Why is that?

BZ: Most managers will make their January decisions based on their December orderbooks, and we don’t think the December orderbooks will be strong enough to give them confidence, but as we go into February and March, a lot of the inventory build-up will have started to occur, so the orderbooks will look better. And the trade between China and the US is expanding again, after a period of slower growth. We think that could have an increasing effect, especially after the Lunar New Year. By the end of the first quarter, growth could be looking quite good.

JA: The harsh talk by Washington DC and Beijing won’t slow down that growth?

BZ: The China-US trade is too big a market for both sides, and politics will not interfere with it. Certainly the Chinese government’s expansion plans are not going to be held back. There are Chinese hotel companies looking for hotel properties in the US – to build or to buy. Very smart people, and I don’t think either side is going to let politics inhibit our trade relationships. Nothing is going to come of the yelling.

JA: Will the growth rate be higher going into the second quarter then?

BZ: I think we could have a weak-ish economy and market in January, like I said. Everyone will be paying higher taxes, at least with FICA deductions back in everybody’s paychecks. With orderbooks in December that may not be strong, managers and consumers could still have their hands in their pockets. If we have a warm winter like we had last year, we could have more construction starts. If we have a cold, snowy winter, those starts could be delayed, and the weak period could extend through January. We are looking very favorably at housing. Housing is still somewhat depressed, but the housing stock is aging — and mortgage money is more available than it was a year ago. And the automobile fleet is aging and will need to be updated, as will the commercial truck fleet.

JA: Do you think the growth rate will exceed 2%?

BZ: Yes, better than 2%, but maybe not in January. But after that it could be substantially more than 2%. Four to five percent would not be out of the ballpark, although 5% would be at the high end of probability. And the market would react to that. If the market is down – and cheap – they don’t want to buy, but if it goes up 15%, everybody wants to buy. If UPS starts to replace its fleet and buys trucks, all the others will update their fleets at the same time. It’s much cheaper to run your truck or your fleet on CNG (compressed natural gas) too. A town near Aspen has converted their entire bus fleet to CNG, and although they can fuel up at the bus barn, there are additional CNG stations being built. Boone Pickens and his group are encouraging these new CNG fueling stations. We’re surprised that trucking companies are not moving faster than they are toward natural gas. We have an investment in a building materials company and I asked them if they are considering CNG, and they said they had not looked into it, but they would. Conversions to CNG are not expensive. Ford and GM are now offering pickup trucks with CNG engines.

JA: Is there going to be a fiscal cliff solution?

BZ: Eventually. Whether or not it happens before December 31, there’s no way to tell. But the congress can pass a continuing resolution to postpone the cuts and tax increases while they work on it. Eventually this Mexican standoff will be resolved. And by the way, the fiscal cliff does not seem to be a big motivator for the American consumer. They need to replace things, and they are not overly concerned with the big picture as long as the economy seems to be getting healthier.

JA: What sectors are going to do better as the economy improves?

BZ: IT spending will pick up. There is a big pent-up need factor here, and it has been a relatively easy way to postpone expenditures for the last couple of years. Windows 8 is very much under-rated. It takes a while for people and corporations to decide to make a big change like the change to Windows 8, but it will be very good for PC companies. Corporations need to have the latest and fastest. Technology in corporate environments needs to be the newest and most capable. Areas like IT are why you can think of higher growth rates. After this hiatus, there is enough pent-up need to start a new momentum.

JA: How about healthcare IT?

BZ: I went to see my physician in New York, and he is one of the best, highest-rated doctors in his specialty. He was really annoyed that he was going to have to convert my file, which is a manila folder with all kinds of paper and bits of paper in it – to computer files. I thought, hey, this is 2012, get with the plan.

JA: How about housing? Any areas there where investors ought to be looking?

BZ: We have had a good run with housing companies, and we think that will continue. One area that may have real potential is mortgage insurance companies. It is a fairly narrow field, and some people infer from the papers that these companies may not be able to cover their losses. The reality is that housing prices could be moving up at a rate of nearly 1% per month in the near future, and as a result those liabilities would be decreasing. Mortgage applications for refinancing were up last week 47% year over year. That’s a meaningful number. Apparently not everyone is under water. Those areas that have dropped the most are improving the fastest in some cases. California is one of those.

JA: Any areas where you would be wary going forward?

BZ: Defense companies. We think there will be lots of cutbacks, lots of programs cancelled. Defense personnel contractors may do better as the armed services cut back their personnel. Company by company there may be some good bets in defense, but we believe the sector will be down.

JA: And in summary?

BZ: Other than defense, it is going to be a broad-based recovery. If we have a growing, recovering economy, interest rates would rise, and inflation would rise. Commercial banks will do better. They will use their asset bases to increase lending. The moderating factor will be that regulations will add some cost, but that will not be an inhibitor for the larger banks looking to expand regionally. If I were a larger bank and wanted to expand regionally, it would be attractive to me to buy a regional bank and expand my profitability without appreciably expanding my regulatory exposure.

JA: Thanks, Buzz.

Note: Buzz prefers not to name specific companies in his portfolios. The interviewer has no investments in the sectors discussed, and does not intend to initiate such investments in the next few days or weeks.

Random Notes on Electrical Vehicles, EV Charging Networks, the Housing Market…

Random notes that caught our eye:

  • A JD Power & Associates study of electric vehicle ownership suggests sales are still hampered by their high cost and a disconnect between the car manufacturers and potential buyers on a return on investment in EVs, according to the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-mo-autos-electric-vehicle-costs-20121108,0,4965785.story). Overall, sales of electric vehicles are an “almost immeasurable portion of auto sales,” the article notes. Nissan Leaf sales are down 16 percent this year, Tesla Motors has delivered “less than 300 vehicles,” Mitsubishi, which makes the i-MiEV mini-car, has sold less than 500; Honda has leased only 48 of its electric Fit and Coda is not commenting, according to the article. The crazy thing is the study suggests the potential savings from driving an electric car “could be significant.” The study shows that EV owners report an increase in their electricity bill of $18 a month to recharge their cars compared to $147 they typically pay for a month of gas.

    Coda EV photo courtest evworld.com

  • Californians will be the beneficiaries of the nation’s most comprehensive electric vehicle charging network. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) this week approved a $100 million, four-year proposal from NRG Energy (NYSE: ERG) that allows NRG’s subsidiary, eVgo, to build the network, which will also include fast chargers that give drivers 50 miles of range in 15 minutes. The network, called a “public-private partnership” by NRG, will be made up of at least 200 public charging stations stretching from the San Francisco Bay area, south to San Diego County. NRG will also guarantee that at least 20 percent of the stations are in low income areas. The project is expected to generate more than 1,500 jobs and a total economic benefit of $185 million.
  • Amid all the noise about the “fiscal cliff,” some interesting observations in the New York Times Nov. 11 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/your-money/fiscal-impasse-now-takes-center-stage-for-investors.html?ref=business): Most forecasters don’t believe there will actually be a drastic tumble. The consenus among “Blue Chip Economic Indicators is that the economy will…grow modestly in 2013.” Also, James W. Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management suggests that “like the European Debt crisis this year, the cliff might turn out to be a series of chronic problems that are dealt with sequentially, not as a single financial disaster.”
  • There’s good news from the labor markets (slowly but surely improving), consumer confidence (“at a five-year high”) and the housing market (“clear signs of a rebound”), according to the same NY Times story.
  • Also in the NYT, a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (a 34-country group including every major industrial nation) titled “Looking to 2060: Long-Term Global Growth Prospects:” more old people proportionately to the overall population mean reduced growth over that term, particularly in China. As China’s population ages “India and Indonesia will overtake China’s growth rate in less than a decade.” GDP in China will grow at a rate of 2.3 percent a year from 2030-2060 (little more than the 2 percent expected in the US) while Indonesia will grow by 3.3 percent and India by 4 percent.
  • Another study, this one by the National Research Council and commissioned by the CIA, suggests that “climate change is accelerating” and Hurricane Sandy is just a taste of “what can be expected in the near future.” John H. Steinbruner, the study author, said, according to the New York Times’ John M. Broder, that “humans are pouring carbon dioxide and other climate-altering gases into the atmosphere at a rate never before seen.”

Fed, Wall Street Euphoria Mean More Good News for Small Cap Housing Stocks

The euphoria on Wall Street touched off Sept. 13 by the Federal Reserve lifted many stocks in many industries, including the small cap home builder stocks we have been following in recent weeks.  The Fed announced it would buy $40 million of mortgage-based securities a month and renewed its pledge to keep interest rates at their current historic lows until at least the middle of 2015.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Todd Abraham, co-head of government and mortgage bonds at Federated Investors in

Photo courtesy of axiahomeloans.com

Pittsburgh, who called it “‘unprecedented support’ of the mortgage market even if there are doubts as to how much it can affect the housing market.” He noted that the Fed’s move caused mortgage-backed securities to soar to their best day in four years.

The six small cap home builders we last covered Aug. 31 all enjoyed a nice bounce on Sept. 13 and then followed up with more gains Sept. 14. While certainly not a scientific survey or an in-depth analysis, or even any indication these stocks could go up further, but it appears that investors found the Fed’s move, perhaps coupled with the recent uptick in housing, enough reason to buy these small caps, all of which have been beaten down in recent years.

The six stocks include:

Red Bank, NJ-based Hovnanian Enterprises (NYSE: HOV, http://www.khov.com/) specializes in single-family detached homes, condominiums and town homes and operates in two segments: homebuilding and financial services.  The company’s stock was trading for as low as $0.89 last October. It closed Aug. 31 at  $2.92,  increasing its market cap to more than $370 million. At the close of market Sept. 14, HOV was trading for $3.89, causing its market cap to jump to $515 million.

Los Angeles-based KB Home (NYSE: KBH, http://www.kbhome.com/) is a home building and financial services company catering in large part to first time buyers. KB is an old Southern California home builder, founded in 1957 and formerly called Kaufman and Broad. Back in early July it was trading for $9.74. It closed Aug. 31 at $11.04, increasing its market cap to $851 million. It closed Sept. 14 at $13.65, up 74 cents for the day. Its market cap is now $1.05 billion.

Columbus, OH-based M/I Homes Inc. (NYSE: MHO, http://www.mihomes.com/) builds single family homes primarily in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and southern parts of the U.S. The  company was founded in 1973 and, like most of the other builders, has homebuilding and financial services divisions. Back in early July it was trading for $17.50. It closed Aug. 31 at $19.30. It closed Sept. 14 at $20.77, bumping its market cap up to $379 million.

Atlanta-based Beazer Homes USA (NYSE: BZH, http://www.beazer.com/) builds and sells single-family and multiple-family homes in 16 states in the U.S. It also acquires, improves and rents homes. The company operates through commissioned home sales counselors and independent brokers. Back in early July its market cap was about $283 million and it was trading for $2.86. It closed Aug. 31 at $2.94. By the end of the day Sept. 14 BZH was trading for $3.77, up 26 cents on the day, increasing its market cap to $464 million.

Irvine, CA-based Standard Pacific (NYSE: SPF, http://www.standardpacifichomes.com/) builds single family and detached homes and targets a wide range of homebuyers. It also provides mortage financing services through its mortage finance subsidiary, Standard Pacific Mortgage. It closed Aug. 31 at $6.70 with a market cap of $1.34 billion. SPF closed Sept. 14 at $7.46, up 19 cents for the day and setting a new 52-week high. Its market cap is now $1.49 billion.

Westlake Village, CA-based The Ryland Group (NYSE: RYL, http://www.ryland.com/) is a homebuilder and mortage finance company. RYL covers many aspects of the home buying process including design, construction, title insurance and escrow. It closed Aug. 31 at $26.81 with a market cap of $1.21 billion. RYL closed Sept. 14 at $31.52, also setting a new 52-week high. Its market cap grew to $1.41 billion.