Goldman Joins Housing Rebound Bandwagon

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Goldman Sachs' late to the party housing recovery call on the homebuilding sector got a fair amount of respect from the market on Monday, though it's hard to see why.

Talk of a housing recovery has long ago ceased to be surprising, and may already be priced into shares of homebuilders. SPDR S&P Homebuilders ( XHB). The exchange traded fund is up about 25% year to date versus a rise of just 3% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Optimism on the housing front has even buoyed shares of Bank of America ( BAC) , Regions Financial ( RF) and other banks that still have massive exposure to the market left over from the 2008 bust. Bank of America analysts argued housing had hit bottom all the way back in March.

Goldman analysts realize they aren't exactly the first to announce a housing rebound. In their report they "acknowledge the year to date price performance, but see this as the beginning of a longer positive trend in housing-related equities."

They argue the market is pricing in 875,000 housing starts next year, while they believe the actual number will be one million. Indeed, if there is really to be a full-fledged housing recovery, you can be sure homebuilder stocks have a long way to rise from here.

On the other hand, you have Keefe, Bruyette and Woods arguing home ownership will continue to fall in the U.S. as government support for housing is withdrawn over time.

Goldman's analysts disagree with KBW, arguing "housing policy has been supportive since 2011 and should continue in that direction." They point to program's such as HARP 2.0," a plan to help underwater borrowers refinance their mortgages, as instruments providing key stimulus to a housing recovery.

As part of their newly bullish stance on housing, Goldman's homebuilder analysts added MDC Holdings ( MDC) to their "conviction buy" list, while raising KB Home ( KBH) to "buy " from "neutral" and Ryland Group ( RYL) to "neutral" from "sell."

Goldman's overall sector call went to "attractive" from "neutral." Shares of all of these companies got a decent lift in early trading Monday, though the sector-wide exchange-traded fund, SPDR S&P Homebuilders, was down 0.63% about 90 minutes after the start of trading on Monday.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

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