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Primarily because of a strong performance by...


Primarily because of a strong performance by its mortgage company, Ryland Group Inc. reported yesterday that earnings for the first quarter rose to $2.6 million, in contrast to a loss of $4.4 million in the same period last year.

But an analyst who tracks Ryland, the Columbia-based homebuilding and mortgage finance company, cautioned that the company can expect only slow improvement in the housing market.

"The market is going to be very slow to recover," said Michael Mead, an analyst at Legg Mason Wood Walker in Baltimore.

He contends that the aging of the baby-boom generation will keep a partial brake on overall housing demand, since there will be relatively fewer young people seeking first homes. He also said fewer people are likely to buy homes as investments.

Nancy Smith, Ryland's vice president for investor relations, said the outlook for the company remains good because of "greatly improved consumer confidence."

During the first quarter, she said, "we had a strong performance by the mortgage company. And, although we had a weak performance by the building company, it was not as weak as the previous year by comparison."

Ryland reported pretax earnings of $8.9 million, a 56 percent gain compared with earnings in the same quarter a year ago, for its mortgage-based financial-services business, which more than offset a first-quarter pretax loss of $1.7 million in building operations.

Three months ended 3/31/92

.. .. Revenue.. .. .. .. .. Net.. .. .. .. .. .. .. Share * *TC '92.. 290,635,000.. .. .. .. 2,614,000.. .. .. .. .. 0.15

'91.. 231,191,000.. .. .. .. (4,389,000).. .. .. .. .. 0.41

% change.. .. +25.7.. .. .. .. --.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. --

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