Spring and summer -- everyone knows they're the best seasons to buy a home, right? They're also, apparently, not a half bad time to look for low P/E stocks in the homebuilding industry.
Screening for value
This may sound surprising. But on a recent stroll through the stock rankings on free screener finviz.com, I stumbled across a surprising revelation: Some of the cheapest low P/E stocks available right now -- not just "low P/E," but objectively cheap bargains -- all hail from the homebuilding industry.
Here are a few of the offerings that popped up on a recent screen for mid-cap ($2 billion to $10 billion in market capitalization) stocks that sell for low P/Es, have produced fast growth rates (15% and up) over the past five years, and are expected to continue producing fast growth rates over the next five years as well.
One of Warren Buffett's favorite stocks -- Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A -1.25%) (BRK.B -1.31%) is USG's largest shareholder -- USG Corp (USG) is the No. 1 manufacturer of gypsum wallboard (i.e. "drywall") in the U.S., with a 26% market share. And despite its king-of-the-hill market position, the stock looks surprisingly cheap from a P/E perspective -- and a PEG perspective as well.
Priced at just 3.7 times earnings today, USG benefited from a large tax credit in last year's Q4, which inflated its profits and pushed down its P/E ratio. Earnings are expected to decline significantly after that windfall this year, and as a result, the stock's not quite as cheap as it looks. But profits should resume growing again pretty quickly. Overall, analysts quoted on finviz.com project a compound annual earnings growth rate of 25% for the stock over the next five years -- not much slower than the 29% growth rate it's produced over the past five years.
Priced at just 5.9 times trailing earnings, HD Supply looks nearly as cheap as USG. Of course, as with USG, a big part of the reason the stock looks so cheap right now is that it enjoyed a windfall profit last year from a big tax credit. But also as with USG Corp, HD Supply looks pretty cheap even if no further windfalls are forthcoming. Earnings, although expected to fall sharply post-windfall this year, are expected to grow as much as 150% over the ensuing three years.
Longer-term, analysts expect to see HD Supply produce nearly 25% annualized earnings growth over the next five years. This, combined with a cheap P/E and a nearly as-cheap forward P/E, suggest the stock could make for an attractive investment.
Shifting our focus now away from suppliers of home "parts" and toward builders of actual homes, luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers (TOL -1.60%) offers an attractive P/E ratio of just 12.7. Like the other stocks so far surveyed, Toll boasts superb past-five-years earnings growth (151% annual) combined with strong prospective growth (19%) as well.
The stock's P/E isn't quite as cheap as the single-digit multiples we've seen so far with USG and HD Supply. On the other hand, Toll Brothers' profits haven't been inflated by any recent tax credits either, so it won't suffer a steep decline in profitability once the effect of such windfall profits subsides. Instead, Toll Brothers offers the prospect of investing in a strongly profitable stock whose profits will remain strong -- and, according to analyst estimates, continue growing stronger for many years to come.
There's a lot to like about such certainty.
For that matter, if certainty and consistency are what you're after, then PulteGroup (PHM -1.57%) stock offers plenty on both scores. The stock's 13.1 P/E ratio is the highest of the "low P/E stocks" we've surveyed so far. That said, with a trailing five-year earnings growth rate of 20% and a projected long-term earnings growth rate of 19% -- well, you don't get much more consistent than that.
As an added bonus, PulteGroup is currently the only stock of these four that pays its shareholders a dividend -- currently yielding 1.8%. For anyone attracted to the stock for the consistency of its growth rate, the prospect of receiving consistent, steady dividend checks on top of the stock's own steady growth should be a welcome attraction as well.