Despite a recent run-up in housing stocks, Lehman Brothers is raising its price target on several builders, saying they should be able to sustain higher multiples in a low interest-rate environment.
Steven Fockens, an analyst at Lehman, lifted his price target on
to $92 from $75,
to $36 from $29,
to $74 from $60,
to $80 from $65,
to $83 from $73, and
to $35 from $31.
"Higher return on equity and good fundamentals support an average of 1.8 times book value and 10 times earnings vs. our prior use of 1.6 times book and 8-8.5 times earnings," Fockens said in a note. He explains that 1.8 times book would be worrisome if not for historically low earnings multiples.
"Our companies are below 8 times forward earnings; this falls below the 10-year average of 10 times forward earnings and normal high of around 12 times forward earnings," Fockens said.
To be sure, housing stocks have gotten more expensive in recent months, with Toll Brothers gaining 45.5% since the beginning of the year, Hovnanian rising 85% and D.R. Horton tacking on 62%, for example. Over that time, the market has fiercely debated whether or not the housing market is in a bubble.
For his part, Fockens insists affordability will remain appealing, due to low interest rates. Also, he says orders have shown good growth, and home pricing, margins and balance sheets are attractive.
In morning trading Tuesday, Centex was up 93 cents, or 1.2%, at $78.70, D.R. Horton was up 64 cents, or 2.3%, at $28.56, KB Homes was ahead $1.04, or 1.7%, at $61.47, Pulte Homes was up $1.18, or 1.86%, at $65.75, and Toll Brothers was up 64 cents, or 2.2%, at $29.79.
Lennar, which releases earnings after the closing bell, was up $1.94, or 2.9%, at $69.23. Analysts expect the builder to earn $1.70 a share, compared with $1.37 in the year-ago period, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.