Home Depot Outlook Strong, Perhaps Not Strong Enough

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At the company’s investor and analyst conference on Wednesday, home improvement giant Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) will reaffirm its guidance for the current fiscal year, offer financial targets for fiscal 2014 and announce that it expects to reach its 2015 operating margin and return on capital targets a year earlier than planned. The announcement was released several hours before the meeting was scheduled to begin.

The big news is that Home Depot last year set an operating margin target of 12% in fiscal 2015, and the company now expects to meet that target in fiscal 2014. Similarly, a target of 24% was established for return on invested capital, and it too will be met next year. Now the company has reset its 2015 targets. Home Depot expects operating margin in 2015 to reach 13% and return on invested capital to reach 27%.

Home Depot has twice revised its guidance higher for 2013. At the end of its second quarter, the company said it expected revenue growth of 4.5%, up from a previous estimate for an increase of 2.8%; same-store sales growth of 6%, up from 4%; and diluted EPS of $3.60 for the full year, up from $3.52. At the end of its third quarter, the store forecast revenue growth of 5.6%, up from 4.5%; same-store sales growth of 7%; and diluted EPS of $3.72 for the full year, up from $3.60 at the end of the second quarter and an original forecast of $3.37.

The consensus price target on the stock has risen nearly $2 a share since the company reported earnings on November 19, and the stock hit a 52-week high in late November. The potential upside to the share price is now about 11%, based on a price target of $87.35. Analysts keep raising the bar for Home Depot, and the company keeps making the leaps.

For the 2014 fiscal year, Home Depot forecasts sales growth of 5% and operating margin expansion of 70 basis points. The company expects diluted earnings per share after $5 billion in share buybacks to rise by 17% to around $4.35, which is slightly less than the current consensus estimate of $4.42.

Shares were essentially flat in premarket trading Wednesday, having closed down 1.24% on Tuesday at $78.61. The 52-week range is $60.21 to $82.27.

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