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Housing slump deepens

Two large US builders report orders, revenue drop in 4th quarter

NEW YORK -- Home builders Toll Brothers Inc. and Beazer Homes USA Inc. said orders for new homes declined and customer cancellations rose as the US housing slump deepened.

Toll, the largest US luxury home builder, said fiscal fourth-quarter home-building revenue fell 10 percent and orders tumbled 58 percent. Beazer Homes, the seventh-largest home builder by revenue, said orders dropped 58 percent.

"We continue to look for signs that a recovery is imminent but can't say that one is in sight," Toll chief executive Robert Toll said yesterday on a conference call. Buyers have lost confidence in the home market and are delaying purchases, convinced that prices will continue to fall, he said.

Toll's home-building sales declined to $1.81 billion in the three months ended Oct. 31 from $2.01 billion a year earlier, the Horsham, Pa.-based company said. The company cut its forecast for the number of houses it plans to build in the next year and is also reevaluating plans to buy more land.

Toll, the sixth-largest home builder by revenue, said it will complete between 6,300 and 7,300 homes in the current fiscal year, less than the previous forecast in August of 7,000 to 8,000. The decline is due to cancellations and fewer contracts, the company said.

The value of contracts signed fell 55 percent to $710 million in the quarter, down from a record $1.59 billion in the same period a year ago. The company said contract signings were hurt by a "higher than normal 585 cancellations."

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