Centex Corp. (NYSE:CTX) surprised Wall Street with a loss nearly triple what analysts were expecting for the company's fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31.

The loss, $908 million, or $7.34 per diluted share compared to analyst estimates of $2.43, was due to a 36% drop in revenues to $2.3 billion as well as $362 million in impairments and write-downs, a $395 million loss related to the 11-state land sale completed in the quarter and a $330 million charge to deferred tax assets under FAS 109.

For the fiscal year 2008, the loss was $2.66 billion, or $21.71 per diluted share, on a 30% drop in revenue to $8.28 billion. The company's consolidated debt-to capitalization ratio, including financial services, rose to 61.1% compared to 52% at the end of fourth quarter, fiscal 2007.

During the quarter, Centex suffered a 33% decrease in closings to 7,100 homes and a 15% decrease in average sales price to $267,953. Partially offsetting the decrease in revenues from home closings was an 86% increase in land sale revenues to $343 million. New orders fell 15% to 6,693.

The company drew down its backlog by 27% in units, to 7,746, and 37% in value, to $2.01 billion, reflecting lower pricing and increased incentives.

On a brighter note, Centex said it reduced homebuilding SG&A expenses by 35% ($138 million), generated more than $775 million of homebuilding operating cash flow and completed the previously announced sale of 8,545 lots for $161 million. It reduced inventory of spec homes by 64% to 1,754 units. It cut owned and controlled lots by 45%, to 88,369, with the bulk of the reduction coming in controlled lots, which were down 71% to 18,147. It retains 70,222 lots. And it reduced home building debt by nearly $800 million.

"We were disappointed with our lack of operating earnings," said Centex CEO Tim Eller. "In the most difficult housing market in decades, we accomplished a number of key goals: We lowered our debt, reduced our land position and generated strong operating cash flow. We also accelerated home sales in front of impending foreclosures, significantly reduced our unsold inventory and completed a large land sale."

Shares of Centex closed down 6.3% at $20.82 and had fallen to a bid of $20 in after hours trading early Wednesday evening.