Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc. raised their full-year forecasts after second-quarter profits beat analysts’ estimates, helped by U.S. consumers shopping for discount items and tools to repair their homes.
Profit in the year ending in January will rise to $4.41 to $4.51 a share, up from a previous projection of $4.35 to $4.50, Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, said today in a statement. Home Depot boosted its annual earnings-per-share forecast by 4.5 percent.
Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke restored thousands of products on the shelves to lure shoppers seeking lower prices as they cope with high unemployment and fuel costs. At Home Depot, the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer, consumers bought flowers and cleaning supplies following spring storms, as well as kitchen appliances and building materials.
“The consumer is still plugging along but hasn’t fallen off a cliff like some people had expected,” said Walter Todd, chief investment officer for Greenwood Capital in Greenwood, South Carolina, with assets of $950 million including 139,000 Home Depot shares and no Wal-Mart stock.
Home Depot rose $1.54, or 4.9 percent, to $33 at 12:43 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, making it the best-performing stock on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Wal- Mart, the third best-performing stock, advanced $1.77, or 3.5 percent, to $51.75. Before today, Wal-Mart had dropped 0.8 percent in 12 months, while the S&P gained 12 percent.
‘Concerned About Sales’
Retailers increasing their guidance, also including discount clothing seller TJX Companies Inc. today, doesn’t always signal improved confidence for the rest of the year.
Raising forecasts “shows the companies are operating more efficiently and controlling expenses well,” said Joe Feldman, an analyst for Telsey Advisory Group who doesn’t rate stocks. “The economy is weighing on everybody, putting pressure on the consumer. So all retailers are concerned about sales.”
Wal-Mart’s net income in the three months ended July 31 climbed 5.7 percent to $3.8 billion, or $1.09 a share, from $3.6 billion, or 97 cents, a year earlier. The average estimate of 21 analysts in a Bloomberg survey was $1.08 a share. Revenue rose 5.4 percent to $109.4 billion, Wal-Mart said in a statement.
Sales at U.S. stores owned by Wal-Mart and open at least a year were unchanged from a year earlier, excluding fuel, after falling for eight quarters. Sales at Sam’s Club locations open gained 5 percent, while those sales at Wal-Mart stores declined 0.9 percent on that basis.
‘Compete on Price’
“What Wal-Mart does best is compete on price,” said Matt Arnold, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co. in Des Peres, Missouri. He recommends holding the shares.
Wal-Mart shoppers now cite employment rather than fuel and food costs as their biggest concern, Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley said today on a conference call.
At Atlanta-based Home Depot, net income advanced 14 percent to $1.36 billion, or 86 cents a share, in the quarter ended July 31, from $1.19 billion, or 72 cents, a year earlier. Analysts projected 82 cents on average.
Revenue from stores open at least 12 months climbed 4.3 percent, exceeding the median forecast of a 1 percent gain by Janney Capital Markets, Piper Jaffray Cos. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The gain “shows their focus on making improvements in their stores,” said Todd, of Greenwood Capital.
Home Depot, whose average sale rose 3.3 percent to $54.04 last quarter, caters to different customers than Wal-Mart, Chief Financial Officer Carol Tome said in an interview.
“Ours is a pretty high-end customer and a homeowner,” she said in an interview. “Our customer is spending money on maintaining their homes.”
The company increased its per-share profit forecast for the year ending Jan. 29 to $2.34. It had projected $2.24 in May. Analysts expected $2.30.
Lowe’s Co., the second-largest U.S. home-improvement retailer, said yesterday that profit in its fiscal 2011 will be less than it previously projected after comparable-store sales fell.
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