Pulte Homes ( PHM) expects fourth-quarter earnings results sharply below its previous guidance, as new home demand is "still far below pre-2006 levels."

The company said late Thursday that it estimates a range of a loss of 5 cents a share to earnings of 5 cents a share, compared with its most recent forecast that it would hit the lower end of earlier guidance of a profit of 30 cents to 70 cents a share.

Pulte said it "continues to navigate through a challenging environment."

The homebuilder anticipates impairments and land-related charges will be in the range of $330 million to $350 million for the fourth quarter, or 83 cents to 88 cents a share. It had previously issued guidance of $150 million for impairments and land-related charges.

"Pulte's operating approach during this downturn has been to improve our balance sheet metrics, as well as right-size our land inventory, house inventory and SG&A levels, said Pulte President and CEO Richard J. Dugas Jr. in a press release. "We continue to reduce the number of homes we are starting, as evidenced by our meaningful reduction in speculative units under construction during the quarter. In addition, we experienced a stabilization to a slight improvement in our fourth quarter cancellation rate compared with the third quarter, as this metric showed progressive improvement throughout the period."

Pulte said it closed 12,566 homes during the fourth quarter of 2006, a decline of 20% from a year earlier. Net new orders for the quarter were 6,446 homes, a 34% decrease from last year.

Shares of Pulte, which have traded in a modest uptrend since an early June selloff, closed Thursday up 9 cents to $32.90.

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