Toll Brothers, the big luxury home builder headquartered in Philadelphia, announced a surprising shrinking of its losses today. It reported losses of $88 million in this fiscal year’s first quarter versus $99 million in the same period last year. Excluding write downs, the company actually earned $9.6 million in the quarter. Sales were down 51% to $400 million but the company also enters the new year with debt as a percent of total capital at just 14%, it’s lowest level ever, the company said.

CEO Bruce Toll attributed the relatively good results to incentives the company has put in place for home buyers. “Our recent 3.99% mortgage promotion had a dramatic effect on our website activity; visitors to our mortgage company website,, grew from 84 a day to 1,617 a day.”

Still, Toll was not calling any kind of turnaround yet. “We believe weak buyer confidence still impedes the market,” he said. “We have not yet seen a pick-up in activity at our communities other than ordinary seasonal increases for this time of year.”

The stock rose 3% on the news to $14.

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