Luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers Inc. on Tuesday said its first-quarter earnings rose, spurred by rising consumer confidence and growth in the number of affluent households.

Toll Brothers, whose homes have an average price of $500,000, also said it expects earnings to come in ahead of expectations for fiscal years 2002 and 2003.

The Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania-based company posted first-quarter earnings of $44.5 million, or $1.20 per share, compared with $39.9 million, or $1.01 per share, a year ago. Analysts' earnings estimates ranged from 93 cents to $1.15 per share, with a mean forecast of $1.05, according to research firm Thomson Financial/First Call.

Homebuilding revenues rose 5 percent to $482.7 million from $458.4 million a year earlier, Toll Brothers said. The company also said it sold land for about $6.4 million in the quarter, ended Jan. 31.

"The luxury market continues to flourish, as it has for the past 11 years, driven by strong demographics and increasing affluence," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Toll said in a statement. "Increasing numbers of affluent households and growing numbers of maturing baby boomers in their peak luxury home buying years mean that our customer base continues to grow."

Looking ahead, the company said it expects to exceed analysts' earnings estimates for the full fiscal year. The average estimate from analysts polled by First Call was $5.08 per share for the year, ending in October.

Toll Brothers pegged earnings at $6 per share or better in fiscal 2003, on revenues of more than $2.5 billion. Analysts' average earnings estimate is $5.61 a share.

Shares of Toll Brothers rose $1.34, or 3 percent, to $43.98 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has risen less than 1 percent since the beginning of the year, underperforming the Standard & Poor's Homebuilding index, which has risen 2.9 percent.