Fleetwood Enterprises: High Gas Prices Means Slow RV Sales

| About: Fleetwood Enterprises (FLE)

There was a time in 2002 and 2003, when I vocally advocated on TV business shows (and was right) that the RV industry might see a big upswing due to all the Baby Boomers retiring.

What better way was there to spend one's new-found free time than to travel around the country in relative luxury, stopping wherever you please, whenever you please? But I was ahead of the curve then, and for the past year, I've been bearish on this once ripe for upside sector. The reason? High gas prices and less money in retirees' pockets.

On May 4, 2006, I blogged that "The Road Trip was Over" for Thor Industries, Inc. (NYSE:THO), an RV manufacturer. I got many adamant responses telling me that I had it all wrong. Many of you said that nothing would tear you from your RV travel, so I started thinking maybe these Boomers were more dedicated to their RVs than I thought, and willing to pay for them, no matter the price. But gas prices continue to go up without any sign of improvement, and sales performance of RV makers continue to fall. Even the Boomers with expendable income are finding it just doesn't pay to travel with a vehicle that typically only gets between seven and 12 miles-per-gallon. With gas prices solidly in the $3-plus a gallon price range, we're looking at one expensive cross-country road trip! You might as well fly.

Which is why I'm bearish on Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc. (FLE), a leading producer of recreational vehicles and manufactured homes. FLE recently reported a fourth quarter sales decrease of 16% over last year, and within that, the RV group took a particular hit, declining by 12% for the quarter. Inventories seem to be piling up, as they didn't anticipate sales falling so much. I simply don't see how this can turn around any time soon.

Type of stock: A leading producer of mobile homes and RVs that has been hit by high gas prices.

Price Target: At its current price of $8.86, I don't think this is a smart buy. We're going to see Fleetwood sink more as gas prices rise. Ultimately, there could be consolidation which could provide a lift to the price, but it isn't worthwhile to chase the stock today in anticipation of an event whichmay be a few months or years off.

FLE 1-yr chart: