Home Depot well placed to withstand 'Amazon effect,' investors say

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Home Depot Inc HD.N shares have climbed with the approach of spring weather, as some investors believe the retailer is well positioned to fend off the competitive threat of online retailers as the peak season for home improvement begins.

FILE PHOTO: A Home Depot store is shown in the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami, Florida, September 18, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

Home Depot shares are up 0.7 percent year to date after being weighed down earlier this year in part because of the impact of an unusually long and snowy winter on sales, investors and analysts said. For the first three months of 2018, its shares fell 6 percent, while the S&P 500 Retailing index .SPXRT rose 11.3 percent.

Since April 13, Home Depot shares have climbed 10.6 percent, ahead of the S&P 500 Retailing index, which has risen 8 percent in the same period. Inc AMZN.O stock saw a 12.1-percent advance.

Home Depot, the largest U.S. home improvement chain by sales, will report its first-quarter results on Tuesday.

Homeowners catching up on home-improvement projects are more likely to buy supplies in person over perusing products online, some investors believe. Home Depot also has a strong business among contractors, which has helped it to outperform rival Lowe's Companies Inc LOW.N, whose sales have lagged. It is scheduled to report its results on May 23.

Shares of Lowe’s have gained just 0.5 percent in the past month.

Several other big-box retailers' shares have not performed as well. Bed Bath & Beyond Inc BBBY.O stock has declined 1.1 percent over the same period, after having dived 20 percent on April 12 on the company's quarterly results. Target Corp TGT.N shares have risen 1.9 percent, while Walmart Inc WMT.N shares have fallen 1.7 percent.

“It’s the season where contractors start getting busy,” said Oliver Pursche, chief market strategist of Bruderman Asset Management in New York, which owns Home Depot shares. “That bodes well for Home Depot and similar companies.”

Home-improvement retailers are also subject to concerns that rising U.S. interest rates could slow the growth of the housing market, said Greg Melich, an analyst at MoffettNathanson in New York. That anxiety has particularly hurt shares of homebuilders such as Lennar Corp LEN.N and D.R. Horton Inc DHI.N.

But the limited supply of houses has pushed up home values and encouraged homeowners to spend money on renovation projects. Renovation activity is projected to increase at an above-average 7.2 percent in 2018 over the previous year, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

“Homeowners are feeling encouraged by market conditions,” said Abbe Will, a research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies. “They’re motivated to do bigger projects: the kitchen, the bathroom.”

Home Depot has also made steps to improve its footing against online competitors such as Amazon. In December, it announced that it would double its total investment spending over three years. According to the company’s fiscal year guidance issued in February, its capital expenditures are expected to total $2.5 billion.

“It has a strategy to compete and win in multi-channel (retail),” Melich said. “As spring comes, it should be a pretty good investment.”

Reporting by April Joyner; Editing by Alden Bentley and Cynthia Osterman