UPDATE 2-D.R. Horton posts slowest order growth in three quarters

(Adds details, analyst comment)

July 26 (Reuters) - No.1 U.S. homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc posted a quarterly profit that scraped past analysts' estimates, and the company reported its slowest growth in orders in three quarters.

The company's shares were down 2.7 percent in light premarket trading on Wednesday.

Orders, an indicator of future revenue for homebuilders, rose 11.3 percent to 13,040 homes in the third quarter ended June 30. Order rose 13.8 percent in the second quarter and 14.6 percent in the first quarter.

The homebuilder, which mainly sells single-family homes, said it sold 12,497 homes in the quarter, compared with 10,739 a year earlier.

D.R. Horton posted a "very in-line quarter," MKM Partners analyst Megan McGrath wrote in a note.

McGrath, however, said the company's pending deal to buy a 75 percent stake in real estate developer Forestar Group could provide "some valuation and sentiment support."

Fort Worth, Texas-based D.R. Horton said it expects the deal to close in the first quarter of its 2018 fiscal year.

An improving job market continues to support demand for housing in the United States. But the industry has been facing labor shortage, which has squeezed the supply of homes.

Housing starts rose a better-than-expected 8.3 percent in June, ending three straight months of declines.

Smaller rival PulteGroup Inc reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Tuesday, but lowered its full-year gross margin forecast partly due to higher lumber prices following wildfires in Canada.

D.R. Horton's net income rose to $289 million, or 76 cents per share, in the quarter, from $249.8 million, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 75 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Home sales revenue rose 17.4 percent to $3.66 billion.

The company's total revenue, which includes land and lot sales and sales from its financial services business and other items, was $3.78 billion, beating the average estimate of $3.72 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)