The 2016 Bullish and Bearish Case for Home Depot

Compared to other Dow stocks, Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) has been on an absolute tear for the past few years. As a leader in home improvement, it’s hard to believe that this retailer would ever fall out of favor with consumers, barring something catastrophic like the hack it suffered in 2014. Strong fundamentals, earnings and a solid balance sheet made this stock a top performer in 2015. But will this performance carry over to 2016?

Now that 2015 has ended, 24/7 Wall St. wanted to see what the strategists and analysts on Wall Street expect for the stock market in 2016. The bull market appears to have been interrupted in 2015, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed out the year down 2.2% to 17,425.03. That may be hardly a reason to call a bear market ahead, but it comes after six straight years of gains.

While the index performance of the Dow does not account for individual stock dividends, Home Depot ended 2015 at $132.25, for a gain of 28.5%, including its dividend adjustments.

For the year ahead, the consensus analyst price target from Thomson Reuters is $141.00. If the analysts are correct, the expected total return for Home Depot would be 8.4%, including its dividend yield of 1.78%.

This year has gotten off to a very bumpy start, and Home Depot shares were changing hands at $127.66, after only a few days of trading in 2016.

Home Depot has been helped by the rise in real estate prices and consumer confidence. People believed they could afford to pay for deferred maintenance on their houses. Battered investors thought it was safe to go back into a sector slaughtered by the burst housing bubble, which caused, in large part, the Great Recession.

While most retailers look to the holiday season as their biggest months, for big-box incumbents Home Depot and rival Lowe’s, spring is where the money is. The three months to May consistently account for the highest sales of any quarter each year, as consumers flock to kick off home improvement projects as the weather warms.

So with consumer spending and confidence likely to hit decade-long highs this spring, and the already hot housing market set to hit its busy season, things look good for Home Depot. For the spring rush in 2015, Home Depot hired 80,000 new associates, and the company expects to replicate this hiring drive in 2016. As we head into 2016 and the spring season approaches, the possibility of record revenues for Home Depot is on the table.

Weather is one of the biggest factors that Home Depot has to deal, and there are a lot of questions that will have to be answered, as their impact has yet to be seen. A nonexistent hurricane season this fall meant fewer home repairs and thus fewer sales, but it allowed for more home remodels to take place. Flooding in the Midwest may prove to be a boon to sales, but this is yet to be seen. Also, an abnormally warm winter the Northeast may have boosted sales.

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