Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Optimism from Home Prices, Home Depot and Macy's

We have lots of reasons to be concerned about our nation's and world's economies.

And right here at home, we have even more reasons to be concerned about our government knows best gang. But we also get some much needed good news from time to time as well.

So here goes. Despite all the silly stuff coming out of Washington these days, private sector companies are managing through the economic crisis very well, and consumers are beginning to return to the market to give a much needed lift to business.

In turn, that increased consumer demand will result in additional economic growth and more jobs. Not as much as would be created if the government aristocrats decided not to help us all out so much, mind you, but at least enough to enable us to keep growing modestly and manage to escape another downturn anytime soon.

And maybe -- just maybe -- in the meantime, the gang in government will somehow get the message that saving the middle class will only come from letting the private sector do its thing. Not by government assuming ever more control of our daily lives.

And if you want to watch just three things that would evidence we're finally headed in the right direction, I'd say pay attention to the discussion on (1) reining in entitlements spending, (2) reforming our tax code and (3) allowing things like the Keystone Pipeline to become reality down the road. The rest of the crapola is pretty much useless noise.

So let's take note of the good news concerning higher home prices and solid earnings reports from Home Depot and Macy's this morning.

We'll start with Annual home price gain best in seven years:

"U.S. home prices rose in December, as last year saw the best improvement in seven years, according to a closely followed index released Tuesday.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite posted a 0.2% increase in December, following a 0.1% decline in November. After seasonal adjustment, home prices rose 0.9% in December.

“Home prices ended 2012 with solid gains,” said David Blitzer, index committee chairman at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Looking at longer-term trends, December’s prices were up 6.8% from the same period in the prior, with increases in 19 of 20 cities. That’s the best calendar year gain since the 15.5% jump in 2005. . . .

Despite housing-market gains, prices remain about 29% below a bubble peak in 2006, according to Case-Shiller data. . . .

While the housing market remains far below peak levels, home construction, sales and confidence among builders have all been gaining, according to recent data reports."

Next up, Home Depot's Profit Surges Amid Housing Revival has this to say:

"Home Depot Inc.'s quarterly earnings jumped 32% as the home-improvement-products retailer was helped by a comparison with a year-ago quarter that included one fewer week, pushing results above Street estimates.

Home Depot, like its peers, has been benefiting from recent improvements in the housing market. The broad revival has made the retailer a popular choice with investors, pushing the stock up 36% in the past 12 months.

"We ended the year with a strong performance as our business benefited from a continued recovery in the housing market coupled with sales related to repairs in the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy," Chief Executive Frank Blake said on Tuesday.

The company also raised its quarterly dividend 34% to 39 cents a share. Home Depot's board also authorized a $17 billion share repurchase program, replacing its previous authorization.

For the quarter ended Feb. 3, Home Depot reported a profit of $1.02 billion, or 68 cents a share, compared with a year-ago profit of $774 million, or 50 cents a share. . . . Sales rose 14% to $18.25 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had most recently forecast earnings of 64 cents on revenue of $17.7 billion. . . .

Same-store sales rose 7%, reflecting a 7.1% increase in the U.S. The average ticket was $55.46, a 5.6% rise from a year earlier.

For the 2013 fiscal year, Home Depot said it expects per-share earnings of about $3.37—below the $3.49 recently expected by analysts—on same-store sales growth of about 3%."

And here's the morning's good news in Macy's Issues Upbeat Outlook:

"Macy's Inc. said its fourth-quarter earnings fell 2% on debt-related expenses, but the department-store operator gave an upbeat outlook on continued sales growth.

For 2013, the company projected adjusted per-share earnings of $3.90 to $3.95, above recent estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters for $3.81.

Macy's has been a star in recent years, with its focus on local tastes, a combination of outside brands, exclusive merchandise and in-house brands producing a formidable combination.

"We continue to see significant upside opportunity ahead in those strategies that have worked so well since we reorganized the company in 2009," Chairman and Chief Executive Terry Lundgren said Tuesday."

Summing Up

Now all we need is a little less silliness and political posturing from the Washington politicians.

If they surprise us and actually do something useful sometime soon, consumers and businesses will then decide to spend and invest even more in our country's future.

As a result, (1) employment will increase, (2) tax receipts will grow, and (3) government spending on unemployment and related programs will decline.

All contributing to an improved U.S. economy, a healthier budget outlook and a better future for We the People. And that would be a nice development indeed.

What's so hard to understand about that?

Thanks. Bob.

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