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) -- Homebuilder

Meritage Homes


saw its shares downgraded Monday morning.

Analysts from Ticonderoga issued a downgrade on Meritage shares from buy to neutral. Meritage shares slipped 0.8% in the first minutes of trading Monday.

The Arizona homebuilder said last month it

swung to year-over-year profitability with net income of $1.2 million, or 4 cents per share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $17.8 million, or 56 cents per share.

>>Homebuilder Stocks: Behind the Numbers

Results beat expectations though Meritage's net home sales in the third quarter were 36% lower than in the third quarter last year.

Meritage said its average closing price increased 21% to $275,700 in the quarter, resulting in 1% higher closing revenue on 16% fewer closings. CEO Steven J. Hilton said that while Meritage had been moving its product offerings "down the price-spectrum" to lure bargain hunters, the company has "had good success acquiring close-in move-up lots in 'A' locations, which other builders may have passed up" which it can sell at lower prices, "offering tremendous value and opportunity to home buyers."

S&P's Leon maintained a $15 price target on Meritage shares following its earnings release. He lowered his EPS estimate for 2010 by a dime to 20 cents per share, and 2011 EPS estimate to 25 cents from 70. The consensus call is for 2010 EPS to be 23 cents and for 2011 EPS to be 78 cents.

Leon said the steep decline in quarterly sales was due to "weak demand and lower buyer confidence." He expects a 2% decline in 2010 sales, but forecast flat sales for 2011.

Elsewhere in homebuilder-related broker action, analysts from Barclays Capital recently reiterated an overweight rating on shares of


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, and raised their price target on the stock by $10 to $128.

RBC Capital Markets reiterated an outperform rating, raising their price target on Weyerhaeuser shares by $3 to $103. Dahlman Rose initiated coverage of the homebuilder-turned-

real estate investment trust with a buy rating and $120 price target.

Weyerhaeuser beat top- and bottom-line expectations with net quarterly earnings of $1.12 billion, or $3.50 per share

>>Weyerhaeuser Beats on Paper Products


D.R. Horton


, which posted narrower-than-expected quarterly losses but offered a weak outlook, recently saw its shares upgraded.

Analysts from UBS upgraded D.R. Horton shares to neutral from sell, and raised their price target on the stock by $1 to $11.

>>D.R. Horton Tumbles on Outlook

Barclays Capital analysts reiterated an equal weight rating on



shares, lowering their price target by $2 to $10.

The builder beat quarterly expectations despite posting a wider year-over-year loss.

>>PulteGroup Beats Despite Wider Losses

UBS maintained a buy rating on



Group, lower their price target by $2 to $20, after the builder posted a much wider-than-expected loss of $9.5 million in the recent quarter.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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>> New-Home Sales Rise 6.6% in September

>> Existing-Home Sales Rise 10%

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