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Eleven and counting at

Toll Brothers

(TOL) - Get Toll Brothers, Inc. Report

. Record annual earnings, that is.

The homebuilder Wednesday said earnings went through the roof again in 2003, capped by a fourth-quarter performance that easily beat analysts' expectations.

The Hungtingdon Valley, Pa.-based company also had a record fourth quarter in which it earned $93.4 million, or $1.19 a share, on revenue of $903.36 million, compared with $69.4 million, or 93 cents a share, on revenue of $705.59 a year ago. The consensus estimate was $1.14 a share for the quarter ended Oct. 31.

Toll Brothers and other homebuilders have been riding a historic housing boom fueled by extremely low interest rates. The company's fourth-quarter performance is all the more impressive since average mortgage rates rose during the period.

"Buyer appetite for luxury homes remains extremely strong. Tremendous demographics, improving consumer confidence and lot supply constraints induced by no-growth politics favor those with the capital and expertise to achieve the necessary approvals to permit development and construction to begin," the company said.

Toll Brothers also said it strengthened its balance sheet and acquired more land during the year for future expansion. "It appears the economy is finally starting to improve," the company said. "With our seasoned management team, our land supply, our financial strength and our brand name reputation, we are very optimistic as we look to the future.

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The company posted record performances just about anyway you look at it. And Toll Brothers was sure to count the ways in its news release. The company had record full-year net income of $259.8 million, or $3.44, a share, an 18% gain from a year ago, for the 12th consecutive record year. Revenue rose 28% in 2003 to $2.78 billion. Its fourth-quarter profit per share was also a record. Contracts hit a record for the 13th straight year.

On Tuesday, Toll Bros. shares fell $2.25, or 5.2%, to $39.45, having doubled in the past year.

On Tuesday, the nation's No. 2 mortgage lender Washington Mutual

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said its mortgage origination volume fell by 50% from the third to fourth quarter. WaMu, which also lowered 2003 earnings guidance, dropped $3.88, or 8.9%, to $39.97. The news hurt rivals Countrywide Financial


, and Golden West


lost $2.42, or 2.4%, to $99.13.