D.R. Horton, the nation's biggest homebuilder, said Tuesday its fiscal first-quarter loss narrowed as it cut costs to cope with the worsening housing market slump
Fort Worth, Texas-based Horton posted a loss of $62.6 million, or 20 cents per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31. That compares with a loss of $128.8 million, or 41 cents per share, a year earlier.
The figures also outshined the loss of 52 cents a share analysts had predicted, according to Thomson Reuters, and the homebuilders' stock rallied on the news.
D.R. Horton's shares closed up more than 21 percent, or $1.31 a share, at $7.42.
The company said homebuilding revenue fell by more than 47 percent to $900.3 million from $1.71 billion as sales shrank. D.R. Horton sold 4,068 homes in the first quarter, compared with 6,549 in the period a year ago.
The number of homes under contract to be sold also fell sharply. D.R. Horton had 4,006 homes worth $900 million under contract at the end of the quarter. It had 8,138 homes valued at $2 billion under contract on the same day a year earlier.
Donald R. Horton, the company's chairman, said in a statement that the company is cutting the number of homes it has under construction and the amount of land it owns.
"We continue to adjust our business to the current homebuilding environment," he said.
D.R. Horton's results include $56.2 million in charges and other write-offs, compared with $245.5 million in the period last year.
Nationwide, sales of new homes plunged to the slowest pace on in December as builders posted their worst annual sales results in more than two decades.
Even with mortgage rates hovering around 5 percent and prices sinking dramatically, buyers have yet to return to the market as the recession deepens.
Builders are lobbying Congress for expanded aid for homebuyers. President Barack Obama's $819 billion stimulus plan, which passed the House last week and is now in the Senate, includes a $7,500 tax credit for first-time homebuyers who act in the first half of the year.
The builders, however, are pushing a larger credit that would last for all of 2009.