Natural disasters can be good for business -- if you're in the business of helping people rebuild their homes.
We were reminded of that fact this morning, when Home Depot (HD) reported huge sales growth in its fourth-quarter earnings report in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
The home improvement retailer reported 2012 fourth-quarter sales of $18.2 billion, up 13.9% over the fourth quarter of 2011. Home Depot notes in its earnings release that 2012's fiscal fourth quarter was a week longer than 2011's, and the extra week accounts for more than a billion dollars in additional sales; excluding the extra week, year-over-year growth was a more modest 6.3%.
Still the all-important same-store sales figures excluded the extra week, and that metric came in strong, with comparable store sales rising 7% over the previous year. Earnings per share also beat estimates, and the company announced a $17 billion share buyback program.
Home Depot acknowledged that sales saw a boost from Hurricane Sandy, the storm that battered the East Coast at the end of the October and sent homeowners flocking to hardware stores to repair damage.
"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," said Home Depot chairman and CEO Frank Blake in the statement.
Still, it's worth noting that Home Depot bested rival Lowe's (LOW) in taking advantage of the Sandy sales bump: On Monday Lowe's reported its own fourth-quarter earnings, with same-store sales rising just 1.9% over Q4 2011.
As you might expect, Home Depot stock is surging this morning, already up 5% as of 10 a.m.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.
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