updated 9/8/2006 4:50:54 PM ET 2006-09-08T20:50:54

Lennar Corp., one of the nation’s biggest homebuilders, cut its third-quarter earnings projections Friday due to a decrease in new orders amid softening in the housing market.

The Miami-based company revised its third-quarter earnings per share estimate to a range of $1.25 to $1.35, down from a previous projection of $1.90 to $1.95. The average Wall Street estimate of earnings per share for the quarter was $1.81 a share before the revision was announced, according to a poll of analysts by Thomson Financial.

President and CEO Stuart Miller said there was a 5 percent decrease in preliminary net new orders during the quarter, but sales incentives and land adjustments contributed to its revised earnings projection.

“The U.S. housing market has continued to deteriorate,” Miller said. “Given difficult market conditions, we have limited our land purchases while we have remained focused on even flow production and minimizing completed inventory.”

In June, despite solid second-quarter results, Lennar warned the remainder of the year would be hurt by slower new orders and cancellations. The company lowered its full-year earnings guidance to a range of $8 to $8.25 per share from $9.25 per share.

Lennar was expected to release its results for the third quarter, which ended Aug. 31, on Sept. 26.

Two other large homebuilders, Beazer Homes USA Inc. and KB Home, cut their full-year financial forecasts this week, sending shares of the companies downward.

On Thursday, Atlanta-based Beazer cut its 2006 forecast to $8 to $8.50 per share, the second time it reduced its full-year outlook since July. KB Home’s forecast, which came after Wednesday’s market close, also called for fiscal 2006 profit between $8 and $8.50 per share, and marked its second profit warning in under three months.

Another homebuilder, Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., said Wednesday its fiscal third-quarter profit fell 34 percent, due to higher cancellations and weaker orders, but maintained its full-year forecast.

Shares of Lennar fell 54 cents, or 1.3 percent, to close at $42.71 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Also Friday, KB Home’s shares fell 5 cents to end at $40.35, Beazer shares lost 9 cents to $37.24 and Hovnanian shares fell 92 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $26.17 on the NYSE.

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