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Goldman says this stock is a smart defensive play in the economically sensitive construction group

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Investors should move away from housing and toward offices to protect the construction portion of their portfolios, according to Goldman Sachs. Analyst Susan Maklari upgraded Armstrong World Industries to buy from neutral, saying in a note to clients that the office construction and renovation firm should be a leader in the sector during a turbulent economic period. “Armstrong’s well-established history of pricing power within mineral fiber, digital initiatives to tap under-served customers and streamline the design process, along with its balanced approach to capital allocation and strong cash generation, should result in peer relative outperformance,” Maklari said. Workers in major U.S. cities have been slow to return to the office, but the non-residential sector should outperform housing in the coming year with interest rates having spiked, Goldman said. “Utilization of office space across metros reached a pandemic high of 44% as of June 29, vs 41% a month ago, with New York and Chicago posting the largest gains, up 3pts each, per Kastle card swipe data. … Despite office vacancy well above pre-COVID levels at 12.2%, we note gross rents continue to rise on a national basis, supporting construction in this end market,” Maklari said. Shares of Armstrong have underperformed the broader market this year, falling more than 30%. The stock also sports a 1.2% dividend yield. Goldman kept its price target for Armstrong at $95 per share, which is roughly 23% below where the stock closed on Tuesday.

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