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`The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Lennar, KB Home, D.R. Horton, Meritage Homes and Johnson & Johnson

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL August 21, 2013 – announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Lennar Corporation (LEN - Free Report) -Free Report), KB Home (KBH - Free Report) -Free Report), D.R. Horton, Inc. (DHI - Free Report) -Free Report), Meritage Homes Corp. (MTH - Free Report) -Free Report) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Free Report) -Free Report).

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Tuesday’s Analyst Blog:

Housing Starts Rise in July

As per latest data published by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), housing starts across the U.S. rose 5.9% in the month of driven mainly by multi-family construction.

Housing starts for multi-family construction rose 26%, rebounding from a decline in the previous month. On the other hand, single-family construction declined 2.2%, narrowing from the positive growth seen in June.

Though an unusually wet weather in the South and West pulled down the single-family starts, rising interest rates, tight credit availability and a limited supply of land and labor also had a role to play.

With the recent improvement in economic conditions and the housing market in general, mortgage/interest rates are edging upwards to more normalized levels since May 2013. According to the Freddie Mac mortgage survey, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate has risen from 3.59% on May 23 to 4.40% as of Aug 15.

This has raised concerns among some analysts. High interest rates dilute the demand for new homes, as mortgage loans become expensive. This lowers a buyer’s purchasing power. However, another group of analysts believe that in spite of the recently rising interest rates they are still below historical levels and housing is still very much affordable.

Rising interest rates notwithstanding, some companies like Lennar Corporation (LEN - Free Report) -Free Report) and KB Home (KBH - Free Report) -Free Report) witnessed increasing demand in all their housing markets in the past quarter and were able to push pricing further. However, others showed some concern. D.R. Horton, Inc. (DHI - Free Report) -Free Report) noted at its fiscal third-quarter conference call that the spike in interest rates slowed orders Meritage Homes Corp. (MTH - Free Report) -Free Report), at its second-quarter 2013 conference call, admitted to a little bit of cooling in July due to higher rates, but reported that demand remained stronger than the Jul 2012 levels.

Moreover, supply of both new and existing homes remains constrained by low home inventories. A shortage of land and labor is restricting the construction of homes, both single and multi-family. Home prices have thus started to move up with market demand gaining momentum and supply remaining limited. In fact, a group of analysts believe that rising home prices and thinning home inventories have created a sense of urgency among homebuyers who are now more anxious to buy a house before prices shoot up further.

NAHB also reported that both the multi-family and single-family construction sectors are performing better than last year. Housing starts activity grew a solid 40.2% in the Northeast, 25.4% in the Midwest and 7.2% in the West in July, while it declined 7% in the South.

J&J Acquires Aragon

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Free Report) -Free Report) recently completed its previously announced acquisition of privately-held, pharmaceutical discovery and development company Aragon Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

With the acquisition going through, Aragon’s lead pipeline candidate, ARN-509, has now become a part of Johnson & Johnson’s pipeline. ARN-509 is currently in phase II development for castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) and will be managed by Janssen Research & Development.

The $1 billion payout for the acquisition includes a $650 million upfront cash payment and up to $350 million on the achievement of milestones.

Prior to the closing of the acquisition, Aragon transferred all assets apart from the androgen receptor antagonist program to a newly formed company - Seragon Pharmaceuticals Inc., which was spun out of Aragon. Johnson & Johnson will neither have an ownership stake in Seragon nor will it retain any rights to the products or programs transferred to the company.

Our Take

This acquisition signifies Johnson & Johnson’s attempt to strengthen its prostate cancer franchise especially once Zytiga loses exclusivity. Zytiga, which became a part of Johnson & Johnson’s portfolio following its acquisition of Cougar Biotechnology, is one of the company’s most successful launches in recent times. Zytiga sales in the recently reported second quarter of 2013 were $395 million, up 70.3% year over year. The successful development of ARN-509 will consolidate the company’s position in the prostate cancer market.

Johnson & Johnson currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).


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