D.R. Horton Inc , the top U.S. homebuilder, posted a first-quarter profit, helped by a surge in orders indicating a stabilizing housing market.

Horton, which competes with Lennar Corp and PulteGroup
, said net sales orders rose 17 percent to $705.6 million.

Orders are a leading indicator for builders, which do not recognize revenue until they close on a home.

October-December's net income was $27.7 million, or 9 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $20.4 million, or 6 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue rose 15 percent to $885.6 million.

Shares of the company closed at $14.12 on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Megha Mandavia in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian)