Is this the long-awaited demise of the new housing boom/bubble/occurrence?

We've seem some pretty dicey new order numbers from the likes of KB Homes (NYSE:KBH) and Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL), and there's plenty of chatter about what incentives builders might be forced to provide to prevent the cancellation of existing orders and/or drum up new ones.

Into this mess come Lennar's (NYSE:LEN) fiscal first-quarter earnings. The earnings themselves were fine, which doesn't really surprise me -- this company has a healthy recent track record of meeting or exceeding expectations, and I doubt it would want that to change. Revenue rose about 35% in the quarter, with operating earnings from homebuilding up 36% and overall income from continuing operations rising 34%.

Less positively, new orders were up just 4% -- the weakest result I've seen here in a while. What's more, the company reported that gross margin in the first quarter came under a little pressure from incentive programs in the West and Central operating areas. So what will the gross margins look like on the new orders booked this quarter? Management guidance certainly didn't sound problematic, but I'd remind my fellow Fools that if guidance were always perfectly prescient, we wouldn't see the words "earnings surprise" so often.

I apologize for sounding like a broken record here, but I'm miffed once again that the company still does not include a balance sheet or cash flow statement with its release. If a company is going to talk up its balance sheet (as management did several times on their conference call), it'd be nice to actually, you know, see it.

Lennar is an odd sort of stock. The company is pretty well diversified (though perhaps a little overexposed to Florida and underexposed to Arizona), and it has a track record of steadily above-average returns on capital. Yet the stock has consistently underperformed peers like Pulte (NYSE:PHM), DR Horton (NYSE:DHI), and Centex (NYSE:CTX) in virtually every time period.

Maybe that means that Lennar is relatively undervalued, but I'm not about to invest. Between a market hurting from rising rates and a management team that doesn't give sufficient information to its shareholders, I don't see a compelling reason to explore the "whys" of the stock's historical performance track record -- or bet on the future outcome.

Open the door to further Foolishness:

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).