Beazer Homes USA, Inc., Atlanta (NYSE:BZH) on Tuesday reported a net loss for its fiscal 2011 first quarter ended Dec. 31 of $48.8 million, or 66 cents a share. Analysts were expecting a loss of 46 cents a share.

The loss, which compares to net income of $48 million, or $1.09 per share, for the comparable quarter in fiscal 2010, included a net loss from discontinued operations of $348,000 as well as a $2.9 million loss on early retirement of debt and $0.7 million in impairments.

Home building revenue fell 47.3% to $110.3 million as closings dropped 43.6% to 527 and the average selling price dropped to $208,700 from $223,100 in the prior year quarter and $235,700 in the prior quarter.

New orders dropped 23.9% to 540 homes. The cancellation rate increased to 31.2% from 27% in the 2010 first quarter.

Backlog at quarter's end was down 16.6% to 800 homes with a sales value of$201.1 million from 960 homes with a sales value of $232.3 million as of December 31, 2009.

Home building gross profit margin from continuing operations was 10.1%, up from 8.4% in the prior year and 1.2% in the prior quarter. Excluding impairments and abandonments, home building gross profit margin from continuing operations was 10.7%, compared to 12.5% in the prior year and 10.9% in the prior quarter. SG&A was down 15.7% to $37.8 million.

Beazer controlled 29,699 lots at quarter's end, 81% owned and 19% controlled, an increase of 2.4% from Sept. 30, 2010. The company spent $62.6 million on land and land development in the quarter, compared to $30.4 million in the prior year and $51.7 million in the prior quarter.

The company ended the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of $522.4 million, including restricted cash of $70.6 million, down $85 million from the prior quarter. During the quarter, Beazer issued $250 million of senior notes due 2019 and used a portion of the net proceeds for the redemption of2013 senior notes and the repurchase of a portion of 2015 and 2016 senior notes. As a result, there are no significant debt maturities before 2015.Long-term debt was listed at $1.306 billion, up from $1.211 billion at the same time the last fiscal year.

"Over the next six months, we anticipate seasonal improvements in home buyer demand," said Ian J. McCarthy, president and CEO. "In addition we remain hopeful that we will see the initial stages of a cyclical recovery in the demand for new homes this year."

Shares of Beazer were trading down a bit more than 1% at $5.38 as the rest of the builder group enjoyed a modest rally.

Michael Rehaut, home building analyst at J.P. Morgan, kept his "underweight"rating on the stock amid his positive sector stance. "...we point to BZH's still solidly negative EPS, our concerns regarding the company's above-average leverage position, featuring an above average net-debt-to-capital ratio of 71% vs. its peer's (ex-NVR) 36% average, as well as our outlook for further equity dilution risk, as we believe the company will likely continue to repair its capital structure," he wrote in a research alert.