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Housing a Bright Spot in a Dismal Summer

In a summer with precious little positive economic news, housing is proving to be a bright spot. June housing starts, at 760,000, was the best print since October 2008.

The NAHB Housing Market Index, out Tuesday, was at the highest level since March 2007, and the change (to 35 from 30) was the largest monthly increase since September 2002.

Housing stocks are a bright spot for the stock market: the iShares DJ US Home Construction Index Fund, the main home building exchange-traded fund , is near a four-year high.

The MSCI REIT Index is also near a four-year high and has been a major beneficiary of the desire for high-yielding stocks.

Elsewhere:

1) Five in a row! Bank of America shares rise 0.6 percent pre-market after becoming the fifth big bank in a row to beat earnings expectations. Bank of America reported second-quarter earnings per share of $0.19, compared to analysts’ $0.14 expectation. The bank cited improving trends in mortgage banking as delinquencies and credit loss provisions declined.

2) Honeywell International, at $1.14, beat by three cents, raised the low end of its 2012 guidance, from $4.35 to $4.55 to $4.40 to $4.55, but lowered its revenue guidance slightly. Aerospace continues to perform well, automated and controls had 4 percent organic growth ... and 60 percent of its revenue is in the U.S.

3) Palo Alto Networks raises price target for its initial public offering . I mentioned earlier this week that there the IPO market is showing some signs of life this week, with no less than five offerings, the hottest of which is network security company Palo Alto, scheduled to price Thursday night for trading Friday morning at the New York Stock Exchange. Its IPO price range was raised to $38 to $40 from $34 to $37, though it's still seeking to sell 6.2 million shares.

4) The do-it-yourself construction business continues to do well: look at Stanley Black & Decker ... the largest segment, construction and do-it-yourself (50 percent of revenues), grew 5 percent organically.

Unfortunately the rest of the company — the security and industrial divisions — didn't do as well. Stanley reported second-quarter earnings per share of $1.32, 20 cents lower than the Street’s $1.52 expectation. The company said it is reviewing strategic alternatives for its hardware and home improvement unit, including a sale. Stanley expects 2012 earnings per share of between $5.40 and $5.65, down from its previous guidance and below analysts’ estimates. Stanley upped its quarterly dividend by 20 percent to 49 cents, from 41 cents previously.

—By CNBC’s Bob Pisani

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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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