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Meritage Falls Most Since August After Estimates Missed

Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Meritage Homes Corp., a builder of homes in the southern and western U.S., fell the most in five months after reporting a larger-than-expected loss because of costs related to winding down its business in Las Vegas.

The company fell 11 percent to $24.20 at the close in New York, the biggest decline since Aug. 8.

Meritage, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, had a fourth-quarter loss of $11.8 million, or 36 cents a share, it said today in a statement. The builder was expected to lose 5 cents a share, the average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Meritage booked $9.2 million in charges related to closing its operations in Las Vegas, the largest part of $13.9 million of impairments.

U.S. homebuilders have struggled to profit as home prices continue to decline. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of values in 20 cities fell 3.7 percent in November from a year earlier, according to a report released today. Builders sold 302,000 new single-family homes last year, the fewest in Commerce Department records dating to 1963.

At Meritage, other measures improved, with home-sales revenue rising 14 percent to $245.7 million, home-closing earnings climbing 16 percent to $39.4 million, and new orders increasing 5 percent to 749 homes.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Gittelsohn in Los Angeles at johngitt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Taub at dtaub@bloomberg.net

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