After months of worsening news from the economic front, it should be no surprise when additional housing headlines disappoint. Today, it was D.R. Horton's turn, as the nation's largest home builder said fourth-quarter net orders dropped 39%. During the period ended September 30, DHI had 6,374 orders worth $1.3 billion, down from 10,430 orders (worth $2.53 billion) at the same time a year ago.

What's more, the cancellation rate hit 48%, versus 38% in the fiscal third quarter. Looking back at all of fiscal 2007, total orders were down 35% to 33,687, with their worth dropping 41% to $8.23 billion.

Donald R. Horton company chairman noted that market conditions deteriorated during the quarter amid very competitive pricing and high inventories for new and existing homes. Tightened lending standards also challenged the market as buyers continued to approach the home buying decision cautiously. Horton did note that the housing environment should remain challenging.

The sales numbers released today provide the backdrop for the company's fourth-quarter earnings results, due November 20. Analysts are expecting per-share results of 4 cents (before items), down from 88 cents earned in the year-earlier period.

Even though poor housing numbers are a foregone conclusion these days, DHI is still being punished. The stock has dropped more than 3% in early trading today and is within a chip-shot of a new 4-year low. Technical resistance has been fierce on the shares of late, particularly the 10-week moving average, which has guided the equity sharply lower since February.