Plum Creek Prunes On Outlook

Plum Creek Timber posts better-than-expected second-quarter profits and sales, but a weaker-than-expected forecast leads shares lower after-hours.
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SEATTLE, Wash. (


) --

Plum Creek Timber


posted better-than-expected profits and sales for the second quarter, but a weaker-than-expected forecast pushed shares more than 4% lower in trading Tuesday.

After the closing bell Monday, Plum Creak said business conditions have improved but demand for sawlogs remains weak, in line with the home construction market. Plum Creek raised the low end of its full-year outlook, saying it now expects to post earnings per share in a range between $1.35 and $1.50, disappointing analysts who forecast, on average, profits of $1.48 per share for 2010. The real estate investment trust said it expects to earn between 20 cents and 25 cents per share in the current quarter, while analysts expected 32 cents per share.

The economic effects of a still-weak housing and home construction market hurts companies like Plum Creek that provide lumber to homebuilders, according to Zacks Investment Research. Makers of plumbing fixtures like


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are also dependent on new home construction, as is wallboard maker




The Commerce Department said Monday that

sales of newly built homes spiked 23.6% in June

, well ahead of expectations. While any increase in the rate of home sales is seen as a good sign for the economy and housing market in general, June's uptick in new home sales still represented the second-weakest month on record after May's depressed figures. It was also 76.3% lower than the 1.4 million-peak in July 2005, at the height of the housing bubble.

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Existing home sales

fell at a slower-than-expected 5.1% in June

to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, the National Association of Realtors said last week.

"Demand for sawlogs remains relatively weak as repair and remodel end-use markets and residential construction markets remain near historic lows," the timberland owner and wood-products company said.

Shares of Plum Creek fell 4.6% Tuesday afternoon. Rival


(RYN) - Get Report

lost 1.2%.

>>Home Sales Bounce, Prices Fall

A weak home construction market cut into demand for timber and other wood products used for homebuilding. Though Zacks noted recently that Plum Creek, the largest publicly-held timber REIT, has a diversified timber and land base that enables it to benefit from large economies of scale. As the housing market and home construction market grind toward recovery, demand for Plum Creek's offerings should improve.

In its recent quarter, Plum Creek grew revenues by 5.1% year-over-year to $258 million, besting analysts' consensus call for sales of $247.5 million. Profits rose 9.4% to $35 million, or 21 cents per share, beating expectations for earnings of $25.5 million, or 15 cents per share.

-- Reported by Miriam Marcus Reimer from New York.


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