Builder Stocks Shrug Off Home Price Momentum Loss
Homebuilder stocks shrugged off news Tuesday that a leading measure of house prices revealed a loss of momentum in March.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index showed just a 0.2 percent gain for the first quarter, compared with the fourth quarter of last year.
The index rose 12.4 percent in March compared with analysts' expectations of 0.70 percent. But price increases slowed from 1.9 percent in February.
S&P Homebuilders ETF (NYSE: XHB) traded recently at $31.89, up 0.38 percent, versus the S&P 500 gain of 0.42 percent at an intraday record Tuesday of 1,908.81.
Toll Bros. (NYSE: TOL), to post earnings Wednesday, picked up 0.83 percent to $35.79, while PulteGroup Inc (PHM) was up 0.25 percent at $19.75. Hovnanian Enterprises (NYSE: HOV) fell 0.5 percent to $4.67, while D.R. Horton (NYSE: DHI) fell 1.46 percent at 0.34 percent.
"Housing indicators remain mixed," David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement Tuesday. April housing starts recovered the drop in March, but virtually all the gain was in apartment construction, not single-family homes.
Key markets in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco are showing "substantial slowdowns," Blitzer added.
Although mortgage rates are near a seven-month low, recent comments from the Federal Reserve "point to bank lending standards as a problem," Blitzer said, adding that student loan debt may be preventing many first-time buyers from entering the market.
Economist Robert Shiller told CNBC Tuesday, "'it's not a big slowdown' even if the reasons behind it are tough to pinpoint."
Other home price measures released Tuesday included the Federal Housing Finance Agency's price index for March, which saw a 0.7 percent gain, compared with expectations of a 0.5 percent, and the House Price Purchase Index, posing a 1.30 percent gain in the first quarter that was in line with expectations.
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