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MIAMI-Lennar Corp., one of the country’s largest homebuilders, is partly attributing a 75% increase in third-quarter net earnings to strength in the markets it serves and improved operational efficiencies.

Yet, even a 15% increase in net earnings per share failed to inspire investor confidence Thursday, as the publicly traded common stock in Lennar closed down $3.15 a share at $33.15 on volume of 1.6 million.

Already affected by continued weakness in the national economy, Lennar shares joined many other publicly traded stocks on a downward trend this week in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Since closing at a recent high of $45.09 on Sept. 4, the issue has fallen $11.94 as of the close of markets on Thursday.

Still, the Miami-based homebuilder exceeded a Thomson/First Call third-quarter consensus estimate of $1.33 per share by 20 cents. And the company expressed confidence in meeting the yearend consensus forecast of $5.49 a share.

The company reported estimated net earnings of $106.7 million, or $1.53 per diluted share, on total revenue of $1.6 billion for the three months ended Aug. 31, compared with net of $61 million, or 90 cents per diluted share, on total revenue of $1.3 billion for the same period in 2000.

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