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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Home Depot on Housing

by Calculated Risk on 2/21/2012 08:24:00 PM

There were some interesting comments from the Home Depot CEO today (transcript with via Seeking Alpha). Home Dept CEO Francis Blake talked about the favorable weather, but he thought there was more:

There are some interesting challenges in setting expectations for 2012. First, the macro data on housing suggest uncertainty. ... The Fed has noted that housing remains a drag on economic recovery with factors such as delayed household formation and credit supply, contributing to a continued imbalance between housing supply and demand. The Fed has suggested the policy actions will be needed to fix this, but it wouldn't appear that any major policy changes are likely in the near-term.

Second, despite this, the performance of our business particularly in the back half of 2011, would suggest the strengthening market. This quarter's comps were achieved against a very strong fourth quarter comp in 2010 and exceeded our internal forecast. But we're mindful that this past December and January were the fourth warmest on record, with much of the nice weather occurring across the heavily populated eastern U.S. Better weather translates into improved sales for exterior categories like building materials and also translates into increased customer transactions, which lift the entire business.
And in the Q&A:
Dennis McGill, Zelman & Associates: Just a question focused on some of the regions, you mentioned California being at the company average and Florida being above and 2 areas that we wouldn't normally attribute to being volatile from the weather standpoint. So just wondering if you could elaborate there, particularly in California, where it seemed like weather was pretty steady year-over-year, especially with some of the housing metrics improving in those markets?

CEO Blake: Dennis, I think that's exactly the point. I mean, wanted to call out California and Florida because they really aren't weather-related. And so that's an indication that there was more than just weather ... And I think just exactly as you said, that those markets are more reflective of not a housing recovery, but a stabilization in the markets that we've seen over the last 2 years, as they've just -- they've gotten kind off there, off the floor in effect on housing.
In other comments, Blake mentioned that we've seen a little improvement before, but those were policy related (like the housing tax credit).
CEO Blake: [W]e are now not -- we have no government programs to cloud what's happening. ... And the way we look at it is, there are some positives that you definitely see on housing.
He mentioned some negatives too, but it seems like they are seeing some improvement.