Homebuilder

D.R. Horton

(DHI) - Get D.R. Horton, Inc. Report

said this morning that it earned 73 cents per share in its fiscal first quarter, beating Wall Street expectations.

A consensus of analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

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called for earnings of 68 cents a share.

The Arlington, Texas-based homebuilder said net income for the quarter was $49.9 million, compared with $42.5 million, or 62 cents a share, in the same quarter one year ago. New home sales contracts for the first quarter increased 25% to $900.3 million, or 4,229 homes, from $722.3 million, or 3,851 homes, for the same period last year. The company also said its sales contract backlog at the end of the quarter increased 22% to $1.58 billion, or 7,327 homes, breaking the company's record of $1.3 billion, or 6,668 homes, set last year.

D.R. Horton also said it closed 4,290 home sales in the latest first quarter, having closed 4,492 in the same quarter one year previously.

Despite weakness in other sectors of the U.S. economy, over the last year the housing market has been surprisingly strong. The projected total for U.S. home sales in 2000 is 5.01 million, down 3.6% from 1999 but still the second-best annual sales number of all time according to the

National Association of Realtors

.