Bloomberg News

Toll Brothers (TOL - Get Report) rose 3% in after-hours trading after the luxury homebuilder posted fiscal first-quarter earnings of 76 cents a share on revenue of $1.32 billion, beating analysts' estimates on the top and bottom lines.

A year earlier, Toll earned 83 cents a share on sales of $1.2 billion.

The company said net signed contract value for the period was $1.16 billion, down 31%, while contract units fell 24% to 1,379.

CEO Douglas Yearley blamed the decline in first-quarter contracts on "a difficult year-over-year comparison, a lack of current inventory in certain locations and the industry-wide slowdown that began in the second half of 2018."

However, he said the company was encouraged by improving demand in February, "especially by last week's deposits, which exceeded last year's same week."

The company forecast fiscal second-quarter deliveries of 1,650 to 1,850 units with average selling prices between $860,000 and $890,000.

The report from Toll followed a weak housing starts report from the Commerce Department on Tuesday. Housing starts fell 11.2% in December to their lowest level in more than two years.