Sales at housebuilder Persimmon rose 10 per cent in the third quarter, but that wasn't enough to impress analysts.
In a trading update described by one City wag as "light on detail", Persimmon said it had £909m of forward sales reserved beyond 2017, up 10 per cent on the £829m it had at the same point last year.
However, it added that although its total number of sales outlets were 10 per cent lower over the autumn period, sales enquiries were about the same level as last year, as were total sales per site.
The company said it had opened 61 new sales outlets to date during the second half of the year, adding it expects to open another 45.
It acquired a total of 5,526 new plots during the quarter, at a cost of £147m, during the period.
That wasn't enough for shareholders, though: shares fell three per cent to 2,790p in early trading.
Why it's interesting
Shares in Persimmon, the UK's biggest housebuilder by volume, have doubled since the Brexit vote - thanks, largely, to the government's helpful decision to extend the Help to Buy scheme.
And it may well get another boost from the Budget later this month, which Number 11 has hinted will include plenty of encouragement for housebuilders to keep on doing what they're doing, with suggestions of looser planning rules, which could even reform rules against building on the green belt.
But Persimmon also happens to be one of the housebuilders most reliant on Help to Buy, the government's programme providing first-time buyers with cash to put towards a new-build home, with 55 per cent of its sales under the scheme. Although the government has announced plans to extend it by £10bn, analyst Robin Hardy at Shore Capital said he expected the government to move its stance from demand- to supply-stimulus "sooner rather than later".
"Additional output from other channels and other supplies is a major threat to what we firmly believe are supernormal returns being made by the national house builders," he said. All eyes on the Budget, then...
What Persimmon said
Customer activity has strengthened in line with traditional seasonality as we have moved from the quieter summer weeks into the autumn period. Consumer confidence is resilient and mortgage lenders remain keen to compete for new business, with mortgage approvals for the third quarter being circa eight per cent ahead of last year. Mortgage interest rates remain very attractive, particularly for first time buyers taking advantage of the government's Help to Buy scheme.