Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) kicks off its fiscal 2014 year on Tuesday when the home-improvement chain reports its first-quarter earnings results. However, some investors worry that severe winter weather and slowing home sales might hurt Home Depot's results in the quarter. Let's look at what Wall Street is expecting and whether the retail company can meet or beat projections.
An ever higher bar
Based on analyst estimates, Wall Street is confident that Home Depot can grow both its top and bottom lines in the first quarter. Specifically, the Street is looking for revenue growth of 4.4% to $19.95 billion in the quarter, up from $19.12 billion during the same period a year ago. Additionally, analysts expect Home Depot to deliver earnings per share of $0.99 in the first quarter, up from $0.83 per share in fiscal 2013.
In the past, Home Depot has done a good job of overdelivering on analysts' expectations. For example, it has topped Wall Street's profit estimates for the past four consecutive quarters. However, it could be more challenging for Home Depot to pull that off in the latest quarter as a result of a sluggish housing market and colder-than-expected winter in most of the United States recently.
While these headwinds could cause Home Depot to disappoint Wall Street in the near term, the remainder of fiscal 2014 looks bright. The company expects full-year earnings growth of 16.5% with earnings per share checking in around $4.38. On top of this, management will continue to drive shareholder value with approximately $5 billion in share repurchases this year.
Home Depot's net profit margin of 6.83% offers investors another reason to like the stock, as this is among the strongest in the industry. The company's operating margin of 11.63% is also above the industry average. For comparison, industry rival Lowe's (NYSE: LOW ) currently has margins of 4% and 7.8%, respectively. Home Depot's strong margins, therefore, tell investors that it is more profitable than its peers.
On top of this, Home Depot currently pays one of the largest dividends in the specialty retail sector with a payout of 41%. It currently rewards investors with a dividend of $1.88 per share, with a yield of 2.47% today. That's significantly better than Lowe's annual dividend of just $0.72 per share, and yield of 1.61%.
The takeaway here is this: Because of the nature of its business, Home Depot is a cyclical stock. This means certain quarters are destined to be stronger than others. Historically, Home Depot's first quarter has been its weakest in terms of earnings. And I suspect this will hold true when Home Depot reports its latest results on Tuesday. However, longer term, the company's underlying fundamentals look strong. Throw in the stock's strong dividend yield and margins and you have a stock that should continue to reward shareholders for many years to come.
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