Eagle Materials Inc. (EXP), a housing stock that produces wallboard and cement products, reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings today that significantly topped profit forecasts. Eagle Materials earnings actually pulled into the black, with fourth-quarter net earnings of $1.9 million or 4 cents a share, compared with projections of a loss by most Wall Street analysts. The consensus earnings estimate was a loss of -2 cents a share.
According to Eagle Materials filings, full fiscal year earnings totaled $29 million, or 66 cents per diluted share. The housing slump has certainly taken its toll on EXP earnings, since fourth quarter operating earnings were $9.8 million, down from $20.4 million for the same period a year ago. But EXP stock executives made the decision to institute price increases on Eagle Materials wallboard on March 15, 2010, and could lift numbers going forward.
It’s important to note the turnaround that Eagle Materials earnings have seen in this recent report. The gypsum, wallboard and cement distributor saw its profit slashed in half last earnings season. Specifically, in January the stock reported that EXP earnings dropped 58 percent between the third quarters of fiscal 2008 and fiscal year 2009. The culprit in the net earnings decine was softness in the construction market, leading to drops in both quarterly sales volumes and prices.
Investors should be cheered by strong EXP earnings, and the fact that new home sales surged 27 percent in March. But Eagle Materials is surely not out of the woods. Housing stocks have been red hot lately, but many experts are saying that homebuilder stocks are overbought. And with tax credits for homebuyers expiring at the end of this week, we could see another downturn in the housing market on this long road to recovery.
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