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Toll Brothers swings to loss

Luxury homebuilder says 'ceaseless talk' of recession continues to dampen consumer sentiment.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers swung to a first-quarter loss after taking hefty writedowns amid the housing slump.

Toll Brothers (TOL, Fortune 500) posted Wednesday a net loss of $96 million, or 61 cents per share, which included pre-tax write-downs of $245.5 million.

Excluding writedowns and one-time events, the company earned $57.3 million, or 35 cents per share, compared to $54.3 million, or 33 cents per share in the same period last year.

The company reported first-quarter revenue of $842.9 million, down 23% from the year-ago period.

"Ceaseless talk of a recession continues to dampen the mood of consumers in general, whether or not a recession actually occurs," Robert Toll, chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

In his afternoon conference call, Toll said that the markets of Naples, Fla., and Washington D.C.'s Maryland suburbs are looking stronger.

"But I am not willing to say as of this call that we are back," Toll said. "It is a glimmer and let's hope that the good times stick for those markets."

Toll Brothers admitted uncertainty in predicting future earnings. While Maryland and Naples look strong, "there are another 35 markets out there that we are still waiting to see hope in," Robert Toll said.

Toll said the company's new home order cancellation rate is running between 25% and 30%, well above the 7% average of the past four decades. He said that even increasing the initial deposit has not prevented customers from walking away from orders.

The homebuilder reported a sharp drop in sales when it released preliminary numbers earlier this month, saying it is "not yet seeing much light at the end of the tunnel." To top of page

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