April 21, 2009 / 12:56 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-USG posts narrower-than-expected quarterly loss

* Q1 loss narrower than expected

* Higher prices and cost cuts help

* Shares up as much as 35 pct (Adds analyst comment, updates shares)

NEW YORK, April 21 (Reuters) - Building products maker USG Corp USG.N posted a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss on Tuesday, as higher wallboard prices and recent cost cutting measures improved the company’s margins.

Prices for wallboard, a key product widely used in residential construction and home remodeling, rose 2 percent from the prior quarter to $121.42 per thousand square feet, the company said.

“As a result of higher pricing, as well as SG&A and other cost reductions, margins, while still negative, improved solidly,” J.P. Morgan analyst Michael Rehaut wrote in a research note to clients.

The company’s net loss of $42 million, or 42 cents a share, for the first quarter ending March 31 was flat with last year.

Excluding special items, the loss for the quarter was 35 cents a share, compared with analysts’ average estimate for a 74 cents loss per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales fell 25 percent to $864 million.

USG, like many of its peers, has been shutting down plants, cutting jobs and curtailing production since the construction market collapsed last year.

Shares of the company rose as high as $12.85, before trading up 17 percent at $11.17 on the New York Stock Exchange at mid-afternoon. (Reporting by Hezron Selvi and Matt Daily; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Richard Chang)

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