When Toll Brothers pruned its expectations for 2006, many of the industry's gloomy Guses saw it as the bottom finally falling out of the market. Toll's shares plummeted more than 12 percent, dragging down other builders' stocks, including D.R. Horton, Hovnanian, Pulte, and Centex.
Creating a simultaneous stir is the recent spike in Toll's insider sales activity, which skeptics see as providing a muddled picture of future performance. However, Toll is not the only builder with insiders cashing out. According to Thomson Financial, insiders at the five largest home builders have shed more than $850 million in stock this year, an increase of roughly $250 million from last year.
Toll's executive vice president and CFO Joel Rassman vehemently rebuts the claims, saying, “[Insider sales] is not an indication of a lack of confidence.”
And it's the same story at Hovnanian. Executive vice president and CFO Larry Sorsby shrugs off suggestions of any correlation, saying that as a portion of the company's common stock, “the selling has been insignificant.”
And perhaps it's not just lip service. Even as insiders sell off shares, many of these companies are repurchasing shares, shrinking the pool and thus keeping the percentage owned by insiders the same.
SOURCE: THOMSON FINANCIAL