Editor's Note: In this edition of "360 Degrees,"
commentators take a look at the homebuilders. Despite earnings warnings and an ominous market outlook, the stocks have performed relatively well today. Have they fallen to bargain levels, or has the industry failed to acknowledge how deep its problems run?
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Hold Off on This Homebuilder, by Jim Cramer
This column was originally published on
on Sept. 7 at 12:59 a.m. EDT
Have we reached a level with the homebuilders where they are at last immunized? Look at
. Isn't that stock supposed to be plummeting? Everything the company
said was bad.
Or is it cutting price and inventory enough that people are saying, "Core net worth, value" right here?
Here's my suggestion: Even if you think that it is bottoming, wait until tomorrow. You don't want to run into a downgrade -- you won't get any upgrades.
I'm leaning, though, toward saying, "Maybe something's being put in here. Maybe the
is about to cut, and they are done going down." That, plus this is a great company.
I like the idea that a stock of a company that says negative things isn't down. Let's see the close and hear the analysts tomorrow, and we will make up our minds on the basis of the Street evidence.
At the time of publication, Cramer had no positions in the stocks mentioned.
Bringing Down the House, by Cody Willard
This column was originally published on
on Sept. 7 at 12:53 a.m. EDT
Housing's been front and center on my mind of late, as regular readers will know. The spiking inventories really have me concerned about how bad housing might get -- and get there sooner rather than later.
Last night after the close, more than one homebuilder warned the Street andguided lower, as KB Home and
each said business was bad. The
Los Angeles Times
quoted Robert Toll of
trying to admit that there's a harder-than-soft landing while attempting to say it won't be a collapse.
His rationale, as quoted in the paper:
"It appeared that we were no better prepared for floods than Bangladesh, andnow that's been exacerbated by continuing bad news out of Iraq," Toll said."It gets into the psyche of the American consumer."
The bullish line dismissing housing's problems often centers around howbig corporations like Toll with their stoked balance sheets willsomehow be better able to weather a major downturn than the so-calledmom-and-pop shops that were crushed during the most recent crash. But Ihave to say, I am blown away by that shallow and what surely must beinsincere commentary from Bob Toll. The housing downturn that might turninto a crash is certainly about a wee bit more than just the post-Katrinaand current Iraq psyche of the American consumer.
Housing's really worrisome, isn't it?
What We Aren't Hearing From the Homebuilders, by Dan Fitzpatrick
This was originally published in
on Sept. 7 at 1:23 a.m. EDT
This morning's comments from Ara Hovnanian of
about the current slowdown in housing were a bit interesting -- not because of what he said, but because of what he did not say. There's a lot of head-scratching going on about the inventory glut, mass exodus of the new-home daytraders and high cancellation rates. This was the type of thing I was referring to in
about some of the underlying dynamics of this business.
I laughed when I read Cody's earlier note about Toll Brothers President Bob Toll's remarks. Blaming the downturn on Katrina and Iraq? If you needed more evidence that the homebuilders continue to feign ignorance about the pickle they are in, now you have it.
Nobody seems to be acknowledging the obvious -- that the builders made hay while the sun was shining and sold their product for whatever the market would bear. It was a seller's market, so they maximized share value by maximizing sale prices. That's what a public company is supposed to do, isn't it? It's prudent, not greedy.
Houses aren't like computer technology. There is no "killer app" that can be introduced in a year or two and bring prior buyers back into the market. When you buy a home, it isn't made obsolete by a dual-core processor. You're typically not going to be buying another one for quite a while ... unless you sell the existing one. That makes the new purchase a wash, and it doesn't affect demand.
Also, builders build on the best land they can in terms of location. As those homes are built and sold, the next subdivision will likely be in a less desirable location. That leads to weaker pricing power, not stronger.
With so many "deep value" managers and analysts wowed by the apparent low valuations, the easy money has already been made by shorting these stocks, and there will always be an underlying bid to prop up prices. But I doubt there will be easy money made by holding these stocks for a long time.
As I write this, the homebuilders have retraced their losses and are moving higher on the day. But I think it's a sucker's play unless you are just buying to exploit a countertrend rally.
Jim Cramer is a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO.
Dan Fitzpatrick is a freelance writer and trading consultant who trades for his own account in Encinitas, Calif. He is a former co-manager of a hedge fund and teaches seminars on technical analysis, options trading and asset-protection strategies for traders and business owners.
Cody Willard is a partner in a buy-side firm and a contributor to TheStreet.com's RealMoney.