By Saabira Chaudhuri
Home Depot Inc.'s (HD) fiscal fourth-quarter earnings jumped 32% as the home-improvement-products retailer was helped by a comparison with a year-ago quarter that included one fewer week, pushing results above Street estimates.
Home Depot, like its peers, has been benefiting from recent improvements in the housing market. The broad revival has made the retailer a popular choice with investors, pushing the stock up 36% in the past 12 months.
"We ended the year with a strong performance as our business benefited from a continued recovery in the housing market coupled with sales related to repairs in the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy," Chief Executive Frank Blake said on Tuesday.
For the quarter ended Feb. 3, Home Depot reported a profit of $1.02 billion, or 68 cents a share, compared with a year-ago profit of $774 million, or 50 cents a share. The latest period included a favorable adjustment to a previously announced China store closing charge of about a penny a share. Stripping this out, per-share earnings for the quarter were 67 cents.
Sales rose 14% to $18.25 billion.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had most recently forecast earnings of 64 cents on revenue of $17.7 billion.
Home Depot noted that the extra week in the fourth quarter of 2012 added about $1.2 billion in revenue versus the year-ago quarter. The extra week increased per-share earnings by about seven cents.
Gross margin narrowed a hair to 34.9% from 35%.
Same-store sales rose 7%, reflecting a 7.1% increase in the U.S. The average ticket was $55.46, a 5.6% rise from a year earlier.
Home Depot raised its quarterly dividend 34% to 39 cents a share. The company's board also authorized a $17 billion share repurchase program, replacing its previous authorization.
For the 2013 fiscal year, Home Depot said it expects per-share earnings of about $3.37--below the $3.49 recently expected by analysts--on same-store sales growth of about 3%.
Last year, Home Depot joined a growing list of companies revamping their strategy in China, as it planned to close the seven big-box stores it operated there and explore other formats like a home-decorations outlet. Home Depot's warehouse model struggled to find a foothold in China, where cheap labor and apartment-based living crimp do-it-yourself demand.
Shares closed Monday at $63.92 and were inactive in recent premarket trading.
--Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at email@example.com
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