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Data Sends Homebuilders Through Roof (Updated)

Stocks in this article: TOL

(Stock prices updated.)

WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- The housing market received two pieces of good news on Wednesday: median home prices grew in the second quarter and luxury home builder Toll Brothers (TOL) saw an increase in signed contracts.

The news sent shares of homebuilders rallying in morning trading.

The National Association of Realtors said median U.S. home prices grew 4% in the second quarter to $174,100, and were up in 26 of the 155 metropolitan areas the group tracks.

But the median sale price was still 16% below last year's levels, and down in 129 of the metropolitan areas compared with last year.

Total sales rose to 4.76 million from 4.58 million, but were still about 3% below last year.

Separately, Toll Brothers said homebuyers who have signed contracts in the third quarter grew by 3%, its first year-over-year increase in four years.

Signed contracts soared 44% compared with the second quarter and only 9% of buyers backed out, the lowest cancellation rate in three years.

The company said it sold 792 homes, resulting in $461.3 million in revenue. Nonetheless, revenue was still down 42% due to declining home prices and fewer communities around the country.

"Although some of our markets are still stuck in the mud, many are improving," CEO Robert Toll said in a statement.

The company will release its final quarterly results on Aug. 27.

Shares of Toll Brothers jumped 14% to close at $23.42, Pulte Homes (PHM) jumped 4% to $12.86, Centex (CTX) grew 5% to end at $12.56, KB Home (KBH) increased 3% to $18.28 and Lennar (LEN) rose 4% to $13.52. -- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

Copyright 2009 Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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