The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:, Meritage Homes, Lennar, KB Home and DR Horton


For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – February 1, 2012 – announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include (NasdaqGS:AMZN - News), Meritage Homes Corporation ( MTH), Lennar Corp. ( LEN), KB Home ( KBH) and DR Horton Inc. ( DHI).

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Here are highlights from Tuesday’s Analyst Blog:

Amazon Misses 2nd Straight Quarter

E-commerce giant (NasdaqGS:AMZN - News) brought in lower revenues than expected for the second quarter in a row. The company's $17.43 billion marked a 35% increase year over year, but it was well off the $18.25 billion expected in the Zacks Consensus.

As a result, AMZN shares tumbled 10% in the after-market almost immediately, after seeing a 1.2% gain in the regular trading session Tuesday. Traders have eased up a bit on selling the stock since the initial impact. Share are currently down around 8% from its Tuesday closing price.

In Amazon's fiscal 4th quarter, both Media and International segments underperformed. In the company's previous quarter, higher costs were cited as responsible for its 39% miss on the bottom line.

Analysts ahead of earnings had been lowering estimates, with 3 downward revisions made on the stock in the past 30 days, 1 of which came in the past week. But in Tuesday trading, after hitting a sub-$190 per share price, investors began to turn a bit more hopeful and set a steady uptrend from about 2pm Eastern until the closing bell. The stock finished the regular trading day at $194 and change, still well back from AMZN's 52-week high.

Electronics and merchandise -- which includes the Kindle Fire tablet that was rolled out for last year's holiday shopping season -- brought in $10.9 billion, which was in-line with analysts' expectations. Clearly, however, retail sales were not enough to make up for the lagging International and Media businesses this time around.

Meritage Misses by a Penny

Meritage Homes Corporation ( MTH) recorded a broader loss of $11.8 million or 36 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with $895 thousand or 3 cents per share in the same quarter of 2010.

Excluding asset impairments and loss on early extinguishment of debt, the company had a profit of $2.1 million or 6 cents per share during the quarter under review, missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny. This compared with a loss of $295 thousand or 1 cent per share in the fourth quarter of 2010, excluding asset impairments and a tax benefit.

Total closing revenue rose 15% year-over-year to $246.0 million on a total of 894 homes closed in the quarter compared with 837 homes in the fourth quarter of 2010. It compared with the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $243.0 million. Net sales orders grew 5% to 749 units from 713 units in the 2010-quarter.

Home closing revenue increased 14% to $245.7 million driven by a 7% increases in both closing volume and average prices. The average closing price increased to $275 thousand from $256 thousand in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Higher average prices in the quarter reflected a shift in geographic mix, with a greater portion of closings in California, Arizona, Colorado and Florida, where home prices are generally higher, and a smaller portion in Texas, where home prices are generally lower.

Home closing gross profit improved 16% to $39.4 million in the quarter from $34.0 million in the prior-year quarter, driven by greater closing revenue and expanded margins on closings. Home closing gross margins increased to 16.0% from 15.8% in the fourth quarter of 2010, including impairments and to 18.8% from 18.1% in the fourth quarter of 2010, excluding impairments.

For the full year 2011, Meritage reported a loss of $21.1 million or 65 cents per share compared with a profit of $7.2 million or 22 cents per share in 2010. Excluding asset impairments, the company had a loss of $4.9 million or 15 cents per share in the year, which compared with the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of 21 cents per share and the year-ago profit of $12.7 million or 39 cents per share (excluding real estate-related impairment charges, loss on extinguishment of debt and a net tax benefit).

Total closing revenue dipped 8.5% to $861.2 million in 2011, which is higher than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $860.0 million. The company had 157 active communities as on December 31, 2011 compared with 151 as on December 31, 2010.

Meritage had cash and cash equivalents, restricted cash, investment and securities of $333.2 million as of December 31, 2011 compared with $412.6 million as of December 31, 2010.

Net debt stood at $273.2 million as of December 31, 2011 versus $193.1 million as of December 31, 2010. Net debt to total capital ratio was 35.8% as of December 31, 2011 compared with 27.9% as of December 31, 2010.

Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Meritage Homes Corporation, which retains a Zacks #3 Rank (short-term Hold rating) stock, builds single-family homes for a broad range of homebuyers. The company also provides residential financial services including mortgage origination services for its homebuyers. Meritage’s key competitors include Lennar Corp. ( LEN), KB Home ( KBH) and DR Horton Inc. ( DHI).

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