PulteGroup Inc. lost more money in its third quarter than a year ago because of hefty charges, but adjusted results topped Wall Street's expectations.
Net new home orders slid 12 percent from a year ago and the homebuilder said industry conditions "remain challenging over the near term."
PulteGroup said it will continue to cut direct construction and overhead costs and will lower its 2011 selling, general and administrative spending by about $100 million as it deals with softness in the housing market.
Its stock fell 2 cents to $8.05 in pre-market trading on Wednesday.
Homebuilders are a bellwether for the housing market and the economy. Each new home built creates, on average, the equivalent of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes paid to local and federal authorities, by some estimates.
But home sales have hovered at the lowest levels in decades ever since federal homebuyer tax credits expired in April. High unemployment, tight credit and uncertainty about home prices have kept many would-be buyers on the sidelines despite mortgage rates remaining at near-historic lows.
PulteGroup lost $995.1 million, or $2.63 per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30. That compares with a loss of $361.4 million, or $1.15 a share, in the prior-year period.
Removing charges totaling $2.60 per share for goodwill impairment, construction and other items, PulteGroup lost 3 cents per share.
The current quarter's results include results from Centex Corp., which was acquired in August 2009. The year-ago period's results were not adjusted to account for the Centex transaction.
The latest result was better than the loss of 5 cents per share that analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected. Analysts' estimates normally exclude one-time items.
Revenue dipped 3 percent to $1.06 billion from $1.09 billion, but beat Wall Street's $1.04 billion.
Revenue from home sales fell 3 percent on a drop in unit closing volumes, which was somewhat offset by a 5 percent rise in average selling price to $365,000.
Net new orders for the company based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., totaled 3,566, off 15 percent from the second quarter's 4,218 orders, and down 12 percent from 4,048 a year earlier.
PulteGroup's cancellation rate declined to 19.1 percent from 22.6 percent a year earlier. Its backlog at quarter's end was 5,345 homes worth $1.4 billion. A year ago, backlog totaled 8,363 homes valued at $2.2 billion. The prior-year figure includes 4,316 homes related to Centex.
PulteGroup has operations in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and its Del Webb brand is the nation's largest builder of communities for adults age 55 and over.
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