Home Depot's Q3 Sales, Earnings Falter

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Atlanta - The depressed housing market continued to weigh on The Home Depot, which reported an 8.9 percent decline in fiscal third-quarter profits, to $689 million.

Net sales fell 8 percent to $16.4 billion for the three months, ended Nov. 1, and comp-store sales declined 6.9 percent worldwide and 7.1 percent in the U.S.

"There is still a great deal of pressure in the housing and home-improvement markets, though there are some positive signs of stabilization," said Frank Blake, chairman/CEO of the No. 1 home-improvement chain. "Our business continues to perform well in a difficult environment. We grew market share in the quarter, continued to transform our business and improved customer service."

Blake's comments - and his company's comp-store declines - mirrored those of chief competitor Lowe's, which yesterday reported a 3 percent drop in net sales but a 30 percent decrease in profits.

Credit Suisse retail analyst Gary Balter attributed Home Depot's stronger results to better gross margin performance, as the company benefitted from new merchandising and planning systems and improved inventory flow.

Looking ahead, Home Depot is maintaining its forecast for a 9 percent sales decline for the full year, but is projecting a 9.5 percent increase in diluted earnings per share from continuing operations.


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