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Home Depot sales miss estimates; shares fall

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Home Depot Inc. (HD-N) reported weaker-than-expected quarterly sales as a warm winter prompted many homeowners to take up renovation projects earlier than usual this year, sending shares of the world's largest home improvement chain down more than 4 percent.

Spring is traditionally the biggest selling season of the year for home improvement chains. But this year, homeowners stepped out earlier to take advantage of the unseasonably warm winter weather across the United States.

Sales at Home Depot rose 5.9 percent to about $17.81 billion US in the first quarter ended on April 29, but missed the analysts' average estimate of $17.96 billion.

"The sales miss could be linked to a mediocre increase in the average transaction value, which suggests continued so-so sales in big-ticket merchandise categories and a heavy influence from seasonal products," said Brian Sozzi, chief equities analyst at NBG Productions.

Net earnings rose to $1.04 billion, or 68 cents a share, from $812 million, or 50 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding a benefit from the termination of its guarantee of a senior secured loan, Home Depot earned 65 cents a share, meeting analysts' estimates, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Home Depot, which has been quicker to cut costs than rival Lowe's (LOW-N), has benefited as housing demand has picked up in regions where it has a heavy presence. It has also gained from opening more centralized distribution facilities.

Sales at stores open at least a year rose 5.8 percent globally, including a 6.1 percent rise in the United States.

The company expects sales to pick up later in the year. It sees fiscal-year sales rising about 4.6 percent, up from its prior outlook calling for a 4 percent increase. It raised its profit outlook for the year to $2.90 a share from a prior forecast of $2.79.

Lowe's plans to report its quarterly results next week.

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