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Beazer: Closings, home orders down in Jan-March

ATLANTA (AP) -- Beazer Homes USA Inc. said Thursday that completed home sales and new orders fell sharply in the first three months of the year.

New home orders fell 9 percent to 1,390 in the January-March period, while completed sales, or closings, slumped 13 percent to 977, the company said.

The Atlanta-based homebuilder, which builds homes in 16 states, attributed the weak sales trends to severe winter weather and a 6 percent decline in how many areas, or communities, it was selling homes. The drop was steepest in the West.

Higher mortgage rates, rising prices and a limited supply of homes have slowed sales across the country. Most economists expect sales to pick up as the weather warms.

CEO Allan Merrill said Beazer remains optimistic about this year's spring home-selling season, which traditionally begins in mid-February and typically sets the pattern for residential hiring and building construction for the rest of the year.

Beazer said it expects to report a profit for fiscal 2014. It has not reported an annual profit since 2006 amid the housing bust and the country's slow economic recovery.

Beazer ended the fiscal second quarter with its backlog down 2 percent to 2,163 homes under contract. Backlog is a key indicator of potential future revenue.

Its shares fell 2 cents to $20.78 on Thursday. The stock is down nearly 15 percent in 2014, but has risen 39 percent over the past 12 months.