AP News

Meritage Homes orders jump 33 pct in July, Aug.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Meritage Homes said home orders in July and August rose 33 percent from a year ago, a sign that the housing market is continuing its slow recovery.

The company, which builds homes in the Southern and Western U.S., said Wednesday that July orders climbed 17 percent to 374 homes. August orders increased 52 percent to 410 homes.

The increase bodes well for the builder's third quarter, which ends this month.

Meritage narrowed its quarterly loss in the first three months of the year. The company's net income vaulted more than 14 times above its prior-year results in the fiscal second quarter as the builder recorded the most home orders in four years.

U.S. sales of new homes are running ahead of last year, when they sank to the lowest level in a half-century.

Homebuilders are a bellwether for the housing market and the economy. While new homes represent less than one-fifth of the total housing market, construction has a major impact on the economy.

Meritage Homes Corp., which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., sells homes in 15 metropolitan areas.

Shares rose 80 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $39.04 in afternoon trading Wednesday. The stock has risen by about two-thirds this year.

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