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Meritage Homes Hikes EPS View

Homebuilder also issues 2006 forecast in line with expectations.

Meritage Homes (MTH) - Get Meritage Homes Corporation Report, a homebuilder with a heavy West Coast presence, raised its earnings forecast for the year Wednesday and issued 2006 guidance in line with analysts' estimate.

But investors shrugged and sent the stock down 1.3% in afternoon trading.

"Continued strong demand for our homes, as well as our recent acquisition of Greater Homes of Orlando, Fla., is prompting the update of our 2005 and 2006 guidance," Meritage CEO John R. Landon said in a statement.

Meritage projected earnings per share of $8.25 to $8.50 for 2005, up 50 cents over the company's previous estimate. Excluding a one-time bond financing charge of 69 cents, the company said it would earn $8.94 to $9.19 a share in 2005, above the average analyst estimate of $8.89.

For next year, Meritage expects earnings of $11.25 to $11.50 a share. Analysts forecast a range of $10.15 to $12.41, with the average estimate being $11.24, according to Thomson First Call.

Meritage's news failed to boost homebuilder stocks. The sector has been beaten down since Tuesday's disappointing Census Bureau data showed sales of newly constructed homes across the nation dropped nearly 10% from July to August.

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