ATLANTA (AP) — Home Depot's fiscal fourth-quarter net income dipped 1 percent, hampered by bad winter weather and one less week in the period than a year ago.
Still, cost cuts helped earnings top Wall Street's view, and the No. 1 home improvement retailer raised its quarterly dividend by 21 percent. Its shares rose more than 2 percent in morning trading.
The U.S. housing market has emerged from a deep slump, aided by rising home prices, steady job growth and fewer troubled loans dating back to the housing-bubble days. That has spurred customers to spend more to renovate their homes.
But housing demand this year could slow in 2014 and that in turn might slow down spending on homes.
Home Depot's results come as new data showed U.S. home prices fell for the second straight month in December as cold weather, tight supply and higher costs slowed sales. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index declined 0.1 percent from November to December. And other reports have showed that home sales and construction have slowed after strong gains last year. Most economists expect the housing recovery will continue this year, though likely at a slower pace.
In a call with investors, CEO Frank Blake said that housing metrics won't sustain their 2013 growth pace this year.
"But we do expect the housing recovery to continue; expect that home prices will increase, even though at a lower rate; and expect that affordability will support growth in the home improvement market," he said.
Home Depot Inc. earned $1.01 billion, or 73 cents per share, for the three months ended Feb. 2. That compares with $1.02 billion, or 68 cents per share, a year earlier. There were fewer shares outstanding in the latest quarter.
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