U.S. stocks continue to reside near all-time highs after the S&P 500 traversed 2,000 for the first time earlier this week.

The benchmark U.S. index has more than tripled since the March 9, 2009 market bottom and, these days, when stocks enjoy particularly strong one-day performances, dozens and sometimes over 100 exchange traded funds will hit new all-time highs.

Homebuilders ETFs, such as the iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (NYSEArca: ITB), are not among the new all-time high group. Ever. Like many of the ETFs hailing from the financial services sector, ITB and the rival SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (NYSEArca: XHB) still reside nowhere close to their pre-financial crisis highs. [Some ETFs Still Nowhere Near Old Highs]

Last week, the the National Association of Home Builders said August homebuilder sentiment jumped to 55 from 53 last month, fanning the flames of a rally that has seen ITB soar 5.3% this month.

There are always present data risks with homebuilder ETFs and there is the the specter of rising interest rates, which could make already hard-to-get mortgages that much more unattainable for scores of home buyers. However, ETFs like ITB could offer some tactical opportunity going forward.

“Many of the large homebuilders have aggressively reduced inventory and ratcheted back on developments. As a result, they are now sitting on piles of cash, despite the heavy losses they’ve taken in recent years. They also have downsized their organizations to better align their cost structures for a lower-demand environment,” said Morningstar analyst Robert Goldsborough in a research note out Friday.

ITB could prove to be the preferred option for playing a rally in homebuilder stocks because, quite simply, the ETF’s exposure to those stocks is larger than XHB’s. While XHB features robust exposure to home furnishings companies and retailers, ITB is a purer homebuilders play. [A Tale of Two Homebuilders ETFs]

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