US homebuilders - on strong foundations?
US homebuilders have been hurt this year by concerns that rising interest rates could keep buyers at bay. But, as the sector continues to report strong demand for new housing, Fraser Lundie, Co-Head of Credit and Anna Chong, Credit Analyst, Hermes Investment Management ask: is the backdrop for US homebuilders favourable?
The recent rise in interest rates – coupled with expectations of further rate hikes from the US Federal Reserve – has weighed heavily on US homebuilders this year: investors fear higher mortgage rates will weaken demand.
But despite talk of a slowdown, industry fundamentals are still supportive of US homebuilders. Strength in the economy and labour market have boosted demand for housing. In Q2, US economic growth enjoyed its best performance in almost four years, increasing at an annualised rate of 4.2%, while unemployment remains low at 3.9% and job creation is solid. In July, employers added 157,000 jobs.
Moreover, homebuilders’ recent robust earnings results demonstrate that demand has not been impacted by rising mortgage rates, with many reporting strong orders – an indicator of future revenue for homebuilders. Tight existing home inventory should also spur demand for new builds. Meanwhile, in a post-earnings call with analysts last month, Toll Brothers’ Chief Executive Douglas Yearley pointed to a structural shift towards the new-home industry – with buyers wanting to “create a one-of-a-kind custom home” rather than live in existing homes.