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Housing Starts/Building Permits a Glimmer of Hope; Plus WMT, HD

Mark Vickery

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Ahead of today’s opening bell, we see a new report on Housing Starts and Building Permits released for the month of April. Expectations were for a pullback on both headlines, and this was not incorrect: 891K new houses broke ground last month, well below the 1.216 million in March (down 30.2%) and beneath the 900K expected. Permits for April came in at 1.074 million, under the 1.35 million the previous month, but above the expected 996K.

Considering the absolutely dire quality of economic reads we’ve been receiving over the past month — from jobs numbers to GDP to the 1.5 million COVID-19 patients in the U.S. alone — this Starts/Permits read is actually pretty good, or at least allows for a glimmer of hope. The improvement in permits, in particular, shows there is plenty of interest in the housing market once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us.

Adding to this, due to a shortage of existing homes for sale — which was already the case prior to the pandemic — as well as existing home sellers taking their houses and condos off the market in our current climate, builders see an opportunity for breaking ground on new units in the future. This may be particularly true outside the major cities, where the COVID-19 pandemic has had its biggest impact. Getting outside the crowded urban apartment building may hold special appeal for home buyers looking to avoid the next outbreak.

Speaking of growth in suburbia, Walmart WMT came out with Q1 earnings ahead of Tuesday’s open, beating bottom-line estimates by 8 cents per share to $1.18, surpassing year-ago earnings of $1.13 per share. Revenues of $134.62 billion beat the Zacks consensus by 0.5%, and outpaced the $123.9 billion in the April quarter a year ago. Shares are up 4% in the pre-market following the release. Walmart had already been up 7.4% year to date, well ahead of the S&P 500’s -8.6%. For more on WMT’s earnings, click here.

Home Depot HD posted a mixed Q1 report this morning, with earnings of $2.08 per share missing the $2.26 expected (and $2.27 per share posted a year ago) on $28.26 billion, which beat estimates by 2.35% (up from the $26.38 billion in the April quarter last year). Non-recurring items weighed on the bottom line in the quarter, marking the second earnings miss in its last 4 quarters. Shares are down 1.5% in early trading; up 12.4% year to date. For more on HD’s earnings, click here.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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