Market Overview

Positive Housing Data Powers Pulte

Shares of PulteGroup (NYSE: PHM) are surging 5.4% today following positive housing data that is extending a now lengthy bullish run for the homebuilders sector at large. Maybe the housing bottom has finally arrived.

At least a case can be made for getting closer to that bottom and ensuing rebound following today's bullish data. The MBA Mortgage Applications Survey said applications for new home loans jumped 23.1% from the prior week. Add to that the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing market index soared four points to 25 in January, easily topping the reading of 22 economists expected.

That's good for the fourth straight increase and it's good enough to be lighting a fire under share of Pulte and its rivals. Not surprisingly, the past year has been a rough one for Pulte and the shares are off more than 12% in the that time.

Narrow the time horizon, and things look better. A lot better. In the past month, Pulte has soared 34%. In the past three months, the shares have returned a staggering 68%. As is the case with other homebuilders, analysts have opined that Pulte could be ready to pullback. Last week, Guggenheim downgraded Pulte to Neutral with an $8 price target.

Today, the stock is just pennies away from that level. Looking at the chart, if $8 proves to be resistance for Pulte, it would be more of the round number variety, not material resistance. Actually, the stock has a clear runway to challenge its 52-week high over $8.60.

The Risks: Pulte currently sports a forward P/E of 36, which is more than triple that of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL). Granted, that's obviously not an apples-to-apples comparison. Another risk regarding Pulte, besides valuation, could be that earlier this month, Goldman Sachs cautioned investors regarding the rally in homebuilders. Take that for what its worth, but it should be noted most of the marquee homebuilders, Pulte included, have climbed since Goldman's call.

Pulte has operations in approximately 60 markets throughout the country. A couple of years ago, that would have been a nail in the stock's coffin. Today, that type of market exposure could prove to be a good thing, especially when the NAHB tells the market EVERY region in its January survey saw increases.

Is Pulte overbought? Perhaps, but there are still potential catalysts to drive this stock higher and they arrive as soon as Thursday. That's when the Commerce Department releases housing starts data for December. On Friday, the National Association of Realtors releases existing home sales figures for December.

Those might be the catalysts to boost Pulte above $8, assuming it doesn't happen today.


ACTION ITEMS:

Bullish:
Traders who believe that Pulte is in for more gains might want to consider the following trades:
  • iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction ETF (NYSE: ITB) from the long side.
  • Long the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (NYSE: XHB)
  • Short the Direxion Daily Real Estate Bear 3X Shares (NYSE: DRV).
Bearish:
Traders who believe that homebuilders will decline may consider alternative positions:
  • Long DRV
  • Write covered calls on Pulte and Lennar (NYSE: LEN)..
  • Short XHB.
Neither Benzinga nor its staff recommend that you buy, sell, or hold any security. We do not offer investment advice, personalized or otherwise. Benzinga recommends that you conduct your own due diligence and consult a certified financial professional for personalized advice about your financial situation.

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