January 14th, 2015

Homebuilders Building Foundation For Next Move

ImageSomething I learned long ago is that “industry group controls 30% of a stock’s price movement.”  So a logical place to begin the search for stocks with better than average relative strength but lower than average risk is by narrowing the available universe down to a select few Industry Groups.

One academic research study concluded that “a mutual fund manager’s success in identifying and emphasizing specific industry sectors in their portfolio was a far better forecaster of the fund’s performance than ability to pick individual stocks.”  Although the statistics were compelling on their own, they were even more impressive because the study found that managers with good industry-selection abilities were likely to continue to outperform their peers over many successive periods.

Through our Stocks on the Move scan, we’ve recently noticed that in addition to significant money flowing into REITs pushing their prices higher as discussed previously, the Scan also filtered out a significant percentage of stocks from a related industry group: homebuilders.  The Scan from a few days ago produced the following results:

Stocks on the Move Scan

A quarter of the stocks generated by that scan were REITs, or 13.3% of all REITs (REITs represent 6.3% of all listed stocks).  Homebuilders, on the other hand, represented only 4% of the stocks generated by the scan but those 7 stocks were a quarter of all the homebuilders (homebuilders represent only 0.4% of listed stocks).  Although homebuilders represented a small percentage of the stocks generated by the Scan, more homebuilders met the scan criteria.

One thing you should know about the Homebuilders Industry Group is that among all the groups, homebuilders tend to generate similar chart patterns and consistently move together.  In Chapter 15 of Run with the Herd entitled “Segmenting the Market”, I presented the following data on homebuilders in the periods leading up to and during the Financial Crisis Crash of 2007-09:


The percentage price moves of all the homebuilders weren’t identical but they were in the same direction and on orders of magnitude similar relative to the average S&P 500 stock.  Over the six years to year-end 2005, the S&P 500 declined 15.0% while homebuilders appreciated anywhere from 404% to 1275%.  From the end of 2005 to the trough of the Financial Crisis, the average S&P 500 stock declined -49.3% while homebuilders lost anywhere from -62.3% of their value to over -90%.

It looks as if we’re facing a similar situation today.  After their huge 100+% recovery off the Financial Crash bottom, most homebuilders have been constructing a consolidation pattern throughout 2013-15.  But now members of the group are showing signs of being ready to exit across to the top of their respective consolidation patterns.  Using a typical “rule-of-thumb”, the percentage move following a consolidation should be approximately the same as the percentage move preceding it.  Using XHB, the ETF for the group, as a proxy that represents a move to approximately 65-70 (click on image to enlarge):

Homebuilders - 20150111

Five homebuilders whose similar charts clearly depict these consolidation patterns are (click on symbols for charts):

However, a word of caution.  If the market turns ugly and does enter what turns out to be a 25-30% correction then these patterns could turn from being consolidations into reversal tops and momentum reversing causing breakouts through the bottom boundaries.  These charts don’t predict … they only indicate that supply and demand has remained fairly balanced for nearly two years and, once it begins, momentum will generate an extended move in either direction.

Fundamentals like low interest rates, increased residential rental rates, increased consumer liquidity and savings from lower gas prices and improved job picture suggest that the breakout, when it does take hold, will be on the upside.

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