Luxury homebuilders Toll Brothers (NYSE: TOLL) reported earnings that came in well ahead of analyst estimates – the latest sign that we may be in the midst of a full-on housing recovery.
The company’s adjusted fourth-quarter earnings of 35 cents per share was 10 cents better than Wall Street’s 25-cents-a-share forecast. Toll Brother’s revenue also rose 48% from the same quarter a year ago, exceeding analyst expectations by close to $70 million.
The sunny earnings report pushed TOLL shares up as much as 1% in early Tuesday trading. For the year, the stock is up an astonishing 54% even after a recent pullback.
Toll Brothers hasn’t been the only housing stock to rally this year.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD) shares are also up 54%, while Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW) has climbed 41%.
ITB and XHB – the two benchmark exchange-traded funds that track housing stocks – are up 69% and 51%, respectively, in 2012.
But the real signs of a housing recovery have been in the hard data, not the rising price of housing stocks. Home prices are up 3.6% from a year ago, rising each of the last six months. Existing-home sales were up 11% in October. New-home sales increased 4% from the second quarter to the third quarter. Foreclosures are slowing.
And despite the recent ascension in home prices, housing is the most affordable it’s been in decades, as the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is near record lows at 3.4%. With the U.S. economy improving, that should convince more and more people to buy.
Consequently, companies like Toll Brothers should continue to profit. And housing stocks should continue to rise.