Are Beazer's Results an Anomaly or an Omen?

The importance of the housing recovery for the overall economy simply cannot be overstated. It's for this reason that the quarterly earnings releases of the nation's largest homebuilders should be of particular interest right now to investors of all stripes.

Earlier today, Beazer Homes (NYSE: BZH  ) , the eighth largest builder by volume, reported its fiscal third-quarter results. For the three months ended June 30, the company had a net loss of $0.22 per share on revenue of $314.4 million.

More tellingly, and potentially as a consequence of the recent surge in mortgage rates, Beazer said that its new orders and backlog for the three-month time period fell by 11.2% and 2.6%, respectively, over the same quarter last year. Alternatively, closing volume and average sales price increased year-over-year by 11.3% and 11.7%, respectively.

As evidence of the Beazer's condition, its CEO noted that (emphasis added): "With improved homebuilding gross margins, higher average sales prices and strict control over operating expenses, we are poised to report positive net income in our fiscal fourth quarter and expect to report our first full year of profitability in nearly a decade for fiscal 2014."

Although shares of Beazer are trading higher this afternoon, it's nevertheless hard to conclude that its results were anything but lackluster. By comparison, last week, the largest homebuilder by volume, D.R. Horton, disclosed that its new orders, sales, and backlog shot up by 12%, 30%, and 36%, respectively.

Are Beazer's results an anomaly or an omen of leaner times ahead? I'd say the former, though the three unknown factors that will dictate this are interest rates, employment, and the manner in which the market fully and finally adjusts to both.

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