I just love when a person who made hundreds of millions on building houses pleads ignorance about the industry. The following comment insults everybody’s intelligence: “The current slowdown is 'strange' because it cannot be explained by macroeconomic factors such as interest rates or unemployment that traditionally reduce demand for houses...We have an apparently decent economy."
Why? Because “[T]he current downturn is mostly the result of a 'severe overhang' in supply that Toll estimated at 15 percent to 20 percent more than the market can easily absorb. That was driven by 'tremendous speculation' by home buyers who never intended to occupy seeking a quick profit from a rising market, and by builders who constructed homes before securing buyers, he said.”
I don’t have anything against Mr. Toll. In fact, I don’t even follow the stock. But I find his comments insulting. You do not have to be a braniac to know that the housing market was going through a bubble. I am waiting until he takes a tactic from Mr. Burns of Overstock.com (OSTK) and starts blaming the decline in housing prices on short sellers. He is already blaming other builders. There is a unique element to the housing industry – once you build and sell a house, it starts competing with your future houses because at some point that house will make it back on the market. Mr. Toll knows this but pleads ignorance.
I don’t know if housing stocks are cheap enough. I am aware that one has to be able to differentiate between a good company and a good stock. There is a possibility that despite the housing market going through some tough times, the housing stocks’ valuations reflect an outlook that is a lot worse that could possibly transpire. I know some very smart investors who have made that case. I have an unquantified hunch that they probably are not cheap enough – TOL is still trading at above 2004 levels. I am not sure that 2004 earnings will be coming back. Looking at past earnings is fruitless as they are meaningless for the forward analysis. And in this industry in particular, the past is unlikely to repeat for quite awhile.
TOL 1-year chart:
By Vitaliy N. Katsenelson, Contributor
This article first appeared on Minyanville.
Vitaliy N. Katsenelson may have a position in the securities discussed in this article.