Neither ETF has been much to brag about this year. XHB is up modestly while ITB is lower by 2.4%, but some analysts have alternative views of consumer durable stocks that indicate some of these names could provide a spark to ETFs like ITB and XHB.
“Looking ahead, S&P Capital IQ thinks sustained historically low crude oil prices should lead to lower raw material manufacturing input expenses, leading to lower cost-of-goods-sold within the household durables industry. There is, nonetheless, a divergence in gross margins and profitability among household durables sub-industries, with the biggest outlier found in the homebuilders. Not only do homebuilders have the lowest gross margins, they are also among the most volatile over the business cycle,” said S&P Capital IQ in a new research note.
Of the two marquee homebuilders ETFs, the $1.8 billion XHB is the preferred option for gaining exposure to the discretionary side of the residential real estate industry. The equal-weight ETF allocates 35% of its combined weight to home improvement and furnishing retailers, which can also benefit from purchases of paint, couches and related fare by renters. Conversely, the bulk of ITB’s lineup is dependent on the construction and sale of houses. [Low Mortgage Rates Could Lift Homebuilder ETFs]
“Despite its name, XHB has just 47% of its in household durables, with the remainder in specialty retail and building products. Homebuilding was the largest sub-industry for this ETF, but the exposure is greater for home furnishing and home improvement retail stocks than in ITB. Lennar (NYSE: LEN), Lowe’s ( NYSE: LOW) and Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR) are among the top-10 holdings, but this ETF is more equally weighted to these and other positions. Top-10 holdings are 34% of the portfolio,” said S&P Capital IQ.
Still, homebuilders ETFs are challenged by dwindling ownership rates, particularly among younger Americans. “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 17.7 percent of men aged 25 to 34 years old and 11.7 percent of women in the same age group live at home with mom and/or pop. That’s the highest percentage since such records began being kept three decades ago,” reports Lawrence Lewitinn for CNBC.