Pulte Homes completed its $1.3bn purchase of Centex Corp, creating the biggest US homebuilder amid signs the worst housing slump since the Great Depression may be nearing a bottom.

'The deal is both offensive and defensive,' said Pulte chief executive officer Richard Dugas, who will lead the combined company. 'We’re likely not to experience a lot of downside from here, but it’s quite possible that we could be operating in this tough environment for a while.'

Pulte’s purchase of Centex, which initiated the sale, is the first large combination of publicly traded homebuilders since the housing recession began. The companies expect to save $350m annually by combining.