The Ryland Group, a homebuilder and mortgage banker, saw its stock plunge 12% in trading Thursday after the company said it was disappointed with fourth-quarter sales.The Calabasas, Calif.-based company was trading down $10 a share, at $72.70, as of MortgageWire's deadline Thursday afternoon. On Thursday morning the company said new orders for the fourth quarter were down 8.9% compared with those of a year earlier. R. Chad Dreier, Ryland's chairman and chief executive officer, said the firm is "disappointed" with fourth-quarter sales and added that first-quarter earnings will be consistent with earnings posted in the first quarter of last year. It believes that "most of the increase in earnings" will come in the second half of 2004. Ryland Mortgage is ranked in the top 100 lenders. Other homebuilding stocks were trading down on Ryland's news, including Hovnanian Enterprises, KB Home, and others.

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