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Homebuilder Revival May Spark M&A


What we see right now is an opportunity in the housing sector. It looks like this housing recovery is for real.

We are seeing margin expansion in sub-groups from lumber suppliers to entry level and high end home builders, as well as mortgage providers. As weird as it sounds, at the same time we are hearing questions such as: “Is this another housing bubble?” and “Who has the money to buy?”

While housing prices first stabilized over a year ago (when the big money went in and bought distressed properties), now they are on the rise again. One reason is the affordability index (rent vs. buy) is now pushing renters into becoming buyers. Large institutions are buying blocks of 100 homes at a time. We are also seeing foreign buyers with all cash disrupting old ideas of value.

Many of today’s investors don’t even know the acronym RTC. When the Resolution Trust Corporation was in the news every day in the 1980’s, very few expected the housing market to ever look appealing again. Once investors cleared the supply, the housing market entered into another sustained bull market that ran for about 15 years from 1991 to 2005. Housing cycles last a while and that is why my guess is the consolidation fireworks are about to go off!

I am not even sure how the consolidation phase in housing stocks will take place. I do not try to “find takeover candidates.” Instead, I use my Magnet Process to identify the companies in every sector that have the best fundamentals – improving revenues, cash flow, and profit margins. These companies are usually smaller and make great acquisitions for the larger companies with large cash reserves, but are currently slower growers.

With money so inexpensive and the housing sector showing strength, I expect to see some significant deals to take place soon. I was looking for a correction in this sector to go in and buy a few of the top ranked Magnet stocks in the group and we got it.

My Almanac partner, Mr. Hirsch, reminds us that the housing sector as represented by the Morgan Stanley REIT Index (RMS) has declined from May to October about 5% on average since 1996. Since its May 22 intraday high to yesterday’s low it’s down about 14%. In addition, the rather predictive NAHB Housing Market Index (HMI), arguably the best indicator for judging the overall health of the housing market is released on Monday. HMI has been on the rise since late 2011. It has come close, but has yet to clear 50. Ratings above 50 indicate a more positive bias in home sales and buyer’s traffic.

Experience tells us the retail investor that was waiting for a pullback will now sit on their hands too afraid to buy. Cool headed insiders in the industry with access to huge cheap capital, who understand the demand for homes, have the opportunity to swoop in and buy. That’s exactly what I expect.

As portfolio manager of the Magnet AE Fund, I am currently long DR Horton (DHI), Ocwen Financial (OCN)., and Ryland Group (RYL)

By Jordan Kimmel

Jordan L. Kimmel is the Managing Member & Portfolio Manager of Magnet AE Management LLC and Jeffrey A. Hirsch is the Chief Market Strategist and a limited partner in the Magnet AE Fund. Magnet® is a registered trademark of Jordan Kimmel.

Disclosure Note: At press time, the Magnet AE Fund was long DHI, OCN and RYL. Mr. Kimmel, Mr. Hirsch and the Magnet AE Fund may buy or sell securities mentioned in this article at any time.