Wolseley became the latest victim of the US housing recession this week as it posted its first profit fall in 10 years.

The building products group, the world’s biggest distributor of plumbing and heating equipment, said underlying pre-tax profit for the year to 31 July tumbled 7.3% to £758m.

In North America , where Wolseley generates about half its group sales, trading profit fell 19% to £487m.

Profit at the group’s US building distribution business, Stock, plunged 75% on the back of the weak housing market and one-off charges related to 3,500 job cuts and 46 branch closures. The residential market accounts for about 80% of Wolseley’s US building materials business.

In a statement, the company said: “There are no signs yet of any upturn in the US housing market, and the repairs, maintenance and improvement market is now beginning to soften.”

Trading profit from Europe rose from £316m to £433m. Group turnover increased 14.6% to £16.2bn, buoyed by acquisitions including the £1.3bn purchase of DT Group, the largest retailer and distributor of building materials in the Nordic region.

The statement led to a number of downgrades in the City. Analysts at stockbroker Cazenove said they were planning to cut their 2007/08 earnings per share forecast by 10%.