Earnings Preview: Lennar Corp.'s Fiscal 2Q Report

ALEX VEIGA

LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ Lennar Corp., a large homebuilder, is expected to report fiscal second-quarter results before the stock market opens Thursday.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: How new home orders and closings fared during the March to May quarter, which coincided with the traditional spring home-selling season.

Other big homebuilders have reported sharp annual declines in home orders this spring, even amid a seasonal increase in traffic by prospective buyers. Lennar's previous quarter ended in February, just as the peak period for home sales got rolling.

For its quarter ended Feb. 28, Lennar's new home orders fell 12 percent and home deliveries dropped 3 percent. The builder noted that traffic had been promising at times, but ultimately did not translate into robust sales.

Unlike last year, homebuilders haven't had an assist from federal tax credits that helped spur sales. Many buyers remain deterred by high unemployment, strict lending standards and concerns that home values could drop further.

U.S. sales of new homes rose 7.3 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 323,000. It was the second consecutive monthly increase. But the sales pace is still well below the 700,000 new home sales a month economists consider healthy. Data on new home sales for May are expected Thursday.

Wall Street is anticipating the company's new home orders and completed sales will lag behind its prior-year results for the second quarter.

The average estimate of analysts calls for Lennar to report a 2.8 percent decline in new home orders for the quarter and a drop of 19.3 percent in delivered homes, according to FactSet.

Even so, Lennar is expected to post a profit for the quarter. The builder's Rialto unit, which buys troubled loans and properties from banks, was a key factor behind the builder's improved fiscal first-quarter results and analysts anticipate it will be again.

WHY IT MATTERS: Homebuilders are a bellwether for the housing market and the economy. Each new home built creates, on average, the equivalent of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes paid to local and federal authorities, by some estimates.

Lennar, which is based in Miami, builds homes in 17 states and is one of the nation's largest builders of senior housing communities.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect Lennar will report a profit of 4 cents per share on revenue of $642.8 million.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: Lennar reported net income of $39.7 million, or 21 cents per share. The results were boosted by an income tax benefit of $11 million. Revenue totaled $814.5 million.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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