Weyerhaeuser Surges on Sandy, but Wait for Lower Levels

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When it comes to playing the housing recovery, investors have plenty of choices. Home-improvement stores such as Lowe's ( LOW) and Home Depot ( HD) come to mind.

But even astute investors sometimes overlook the brands that they actually go to Lowe's or Home Depot to buy. Timber maker Weyerhaeuser ( WY), headquartered in Federal Way, Wash., is not widely recognized as a household name, but it would be hard to find another company more closely tied to the housing market.

The market has been more inviting to Weyerhaeuser lately, with shares up close to 70% over the past 12 months. Now that the price-to-earnings ratio has reached 34, the stock trades at a valuation that is 15 points and 14 points higher, respectively, than the industry average and sector average.

Weyerhaeuser's resurgence is a surprise for some. But for TheStreet's Jim Cramer, it's par for the course. On Nov. 11, Cramer essentially called the bottom on (among other stocks) Weyerhaeuser when the stock was trading at about $26, or 23% below its recent high.

Cramer cited the destruction of Hurricane Sandy as a possible catalyst for home reconstruction, which would spur increased demand not only for Weyerhaeuser's wood products but also for those of rival companies such as Louisiana Pacific ( LPX), which has risen 53% since its November low of $14.72.

Weyerhaeuser, which posted a 25% gain in fourth-quarter revenue, has been an early beneficiary of Sandy. Weyerhaeuser's P/E of 34, 1 point higher than what the company has averaged over the past couple of years, causes concern that the market has already priced in a full housing recovery, especially when looking at Louisiana Pacific's valuation (P/E of 92), five times the S&P 500.

Still, with improving consumer confidence and low mortgage rates, things are looking up for Weyerhaeuser. Home prices rose nearly 10% in January, the biggest increase in almost seven years, a good sign for the company's wood and timberland products.

Better Profitability Offsets Sequential Weakness

Revenue arrived up 31% year over year to $1.95 billion, beating estimates by more than 4%. The performance follows a strong 25% revenue surge in the fourth quarter. But there was also a 2.5% sequential decline in revenue.

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