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Lennar 1Q tops Street as it delivers more homes

MIAMI (AP) -- Lennar's first-quarter net income climbed 36 percent as orders for new homes rose and it delivered more of them at higher prices.

The performance from the Miami homebuilder easily beat Wall Street expectations and shares jumped 4 percent before the opening bell Thursday.

It's been a rough winter for homebuilders as heavy snows slowed construction and kept prospective homebuyers away from open houses. But rising mortgage and those higher home prices have raised alarms as well. New home construction declined for the third consecutive month in February, according to a report earlier this week from the Commerce Department.

But that same report also delivered some promising news.

While construction fell, applications for building permits rose to their highest level in four months, meaning that homebuilders are readying themselves for a busy spring. Many analysts expect housing sales and construction to show further gains this year, helped by a stronger economy.

Another report this week suggested that homebuilder confidence is edging higher.

For the three months ended Feb. 28, Lennar Corp. earned $78.1 million, or 35 cents per share. That compares with $57.5 million, or 26 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts predicted earnings of 28 cents per share, according to a FactSet survey.

Revenue increased to $1.36 billion from $990.2 million, topping Wall Street's forecast of $1.25 billion.

New orders rose 10 percent to 4,465 homes, while deliveries climbed 13 percent to 3,609 homes.

CEO Stuart Miller said the average sales price increased 18 percent.

However, Miller said that the housing market still seems to be in the early stages of recovery and that it's too early to predict how the spring selling season will go.

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