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Home Depot’s Q3 Sales, Earnings Falter

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.