I'm sure there are plenty of investors out there who think the paper, packaging, and assorted forest-derived products business is a little strange to begin with. I'd argue that Temple-Inland (NYSE:TIN) goes you one better; even for a forest products company, it's a little odd.

Temple-Inland combines operations in containerboard (used to make boxes), building products like particleboard and gypsum wallboard, and retail banking into one package. See? I told you it was a little different.

It's also different in terms of performance. Over the past year, Temple-Inland's stock has smashed the likes of International Paper (NYSE:IP) and Smurfit-Stone Container (NASDAQ:SSCC) and done better than Weyerhaeuser (NYSE:WY) and Packaging Corp. (NYSE:PKG), as well. By the way, that outperformance is also true of a five-year timeline.

Now, that's not to say that Temple-Inland's fourth quarter was robust. The company did beat expectations -- revenue rose all of 2%. But adjusted per-share earnings were down about 29%. While the forest products division had some operating income growth (helped in part by a strong gypsum market and land sales), the packaging business got squeezed between lower prices and higher raw material costs. The financial services business was down just slightly.

What happens next will likely have a lot to do with the housing construction market. If new building doesn't fall off too much (or if gypsum wallboard gains share versus substitute products), then the improving conditions in the packaging industry might lead to healthier stock performance. The downside is just the opposite -- that residential construction really falls off, and that whatever the company gains in packaging, it loses in forest products.

I like a lot about Temple-Inland, but it's just not my favorite idea in the group. Why take the risk of having to bet right on packaging and housing demand? If you think that the packaging industry is going to do better, I think Packaging Corp or Smurfit-Stone are the places to be. And if you really want exposure to residential building materials, why not look at Eagle Materials (NYSE:EXP)? Still, if you're a believer in a Goldilocks scenario (better packaging and stable/better new housing), I suppose Temple-Inland is more than just a hope and a prayer.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).