Economy

Home Depot 3Q results up on strength at US stores

ATLANTA (AP) — Home Depot's fiscal third-quarter profit climbed as sales at its U.S. stores strengthened amid the improvement of the housing market.

The results for the nation's biggest home improvement company beat analysts' estimates and the chain also lifted its full-year forecast again on Tuesday. Its shares briefly touched an all-time high. Home improvement companies have been benefiting from record-low interest rates and rising home prices, spurring customers to spend more to renovate their homes.

"We were pleased with our performance in the third quarter as sales exceeded our expectations," said Craig Menear, executive vice president of merchandising. "Strength in the core of the store, the continued resurgence of our pro(fessional) customers and mild temperatures helped us overcome difficult comparisons cycling last year's storm related sales."

For the three months ended Nov. 3, Home Depot Inc. reported net income of $1.35 billion, or 95 cents per share, up from $947 million, or 63 cents per share, a year ago. The prior-year period was weighed down by a one-time charge of 11 cents per share tied to store closings in China.

Analysts expected lower earnings of 89 cents per share for the latest quarter, according to FactSet. Revenue for the Atlanta-based company rose 7 percent to $19.47 billion from $18.13 billion. Wall Street predicted $19.18 billion.

In the third quarter, the chain reported that sales at stores open at least a year, a key retail metric, rose 7.4 percent. In the U.S., that figure increased 8.2 percent. Smaller rival Lowe's Cos. reports quarterly results on Wednesday.

Home Depot now foresees fiscal 2013 earnings to be up about 24 percent to $3.72 per share. Revenue is expected to be up approximately 5.6 percent. The company had also increased its full-year outlook in August. It previously predicted earnings of $3.60 per share, with revenue up about 4.5 percent. Based on 2012's revenue of $74.75 billion, the new guidance implies approximately $78.9 billion.

Analysts expect full-year earnings of $3.70 per share on revenue of $78.63 billion. Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter, who rates Home Depot "Outperform," said the results were "another well executed quarter."

"We continue to like Home Depot given the U.S. housing recovery, share gains from weaker competitors (Sears), strong execution, and internal initiatives," he said. Shares rose $1.67, or 2.1 percent, to $81.34 in morning trading after hitting an all-time high of $82.27 earlier in the session.

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