Toll, Lennar: 2 Good Ways to Play the Housing Recovery

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Signs of a significant housing recovery are ubiquitous. There's little controversy that the recovery is valid and enduring. As long as credit is cheap and available, as long as the pent-up demand is greater than the supply, it will endure.

Then early Wednesday, the news came, as noted here by the Wall Street Journal:
Housing starts decreased 3% last month from October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 861,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Since November 2011, new home construction was up 21.6% . . . .
Construction of single-family homes, which made up two-thirds of housing starts last month, dropped 4.1% in November to a rate of 565,000 units. Single-family construction was up 22.8% from a year earlier.

As a Barron's news story concluded, "The figures were below expectations. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast overall housing starts would drop to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 865,000, which would have been a 3.2% decline from October's previously reported figures."

The upside of the Commerce Department's report was summarized by Dave Lutz, a trader at Stifel Nicolaus, who opined, "Billings by U.S. architecture firms increased in November at the fastest pace in five years, a sign construction will pick up next year as businesses invest in commercial projects. The American Institute of Architects Billings Index climbed to 53.2 last month, the highest level since November 2007, from 52.8 in October."

Lutz reminded us that the index has risen for six straight months, the longest winning streak in its 17-year history. All I can add is that when the Architects Billings Index rises month after month that bodes well for the economy and for the home building industry specifically.
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real money portfolio for his charitable trust- enjoy advance notice of every trade, full access to the portfolio, and deep coverage of the latest economic events and market movements.

Earlier this month luxury-home builder Toll Brothers ( TOL) let it be known that their quarterly profits surged in the fiscal fourth quarter. TOL reported that net signed contracts for building homes were more than $684 million. That's up 75% from the year-ago quarter.

TOL also reported the number of units surged to 1,098 which is a 70% improvement from last year. In fact The Wall Street Journal reported that "...on a per-community basis, TOL's net signed contracts were the highest for any fiscal year since 2006."

CEO Douglas Yearley was pleased to announce at TOL's conference call that, "Pent-up demand, rising home prices, low interest rates and improving consumer confidence motivated buyers to return to the housing market in 2012."

Yearley added, "As household formations accelerated and unsold home inventories dropped to record lows, the industry took further steps toward a sustained housing recovery." For the quarter ending Oct. 31, Toll Brothers reported a profit of $411.4 million. This translated to $2.35 a share, a monumental improvement over the same quarter last year when TOL's profit was just $15 million.

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