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Hefty Loss Weighs on Centex

Shares slide after the builder reports a heavier-than-expected flood of red ink for the latest period.

Centex

(CTX)

shares tumbled 6% Wednesday after the homebuilder's loss more than quadrupled in the latest quarter, while cash flow generation came in lower than expected.

On the conference call following the third-quarter report, the company said the level of discounts being offered for new homes are at record levels and that housing inventories and prices have not stabilized.

"The housing market continues to correct and tighter mortgage underwriting standards are affecting home prices," Centex CEO Tim Eller said in a statement.

Shares of Centex -- which, like those of most homebuilders, have rallied over the past week following the Federal Reserve's emergency rate cuts -- recently were down $1.81 to $27.19.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, Centex's loss swelled to $975 million, or $7.94 a share. That was substantially worse than the loss of 78 cents a share that analysts expected, according to Thomson Financial.

In the year-earlier fiscal third quarter, Centex recorded a loss of $228.1 million, or $1.90 a share.

The latest quarter's loss primarily was due to $554 million of land impairment charges and a $500 million deferred tax valuation allowance charge. But the top line was weak as well; revenue fell 30% year over year to $1.91 billion in the quarter. New orders fell 10%.

In a note to clients, Pali Reseach analyst Stephen East said the results were disappointing. Centex underperformed on cash flow generation, orders, land charges and operating margin before charges, he said.

"Consequently, we believe this name has some serious work to do in the quarter just started," East said.

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Cancellation rates on Centex's home orders fell 550 basis points from a year earlier to 33%. Unit sales dropped to 5,537 from 6,139 the prior year.

Centex's results, as well as dreary data on U.S. economic growth, brought down shares of other builders.

Toll Brothers

(TOL) - Get Toll Brothers, Inc. Report

was sliding 78 cents, or 3.5%, to $21.79, while

Ryland

(RYL)

slipped $1.54, or 4.8%, to $30.81.

Pulte Homes

(PHM) - Get PulteGroup, Inc. Report

, which reports earnings after the market closes, fell 96 cents, or 6.5%, to $13.89.