Get Ready to Build on Home Depot

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I'm driving along the main artery near the city I call home with my dearest friend, who reminds me that we need new furnace filters. "That's nice," I respond in an atypically apathetic mood, wondering why she brought up that topic.

In five minutes I found out when she exclaimed, "There it is, the Home Depot!" Before I could catch my breath I'm being told to take the next left turn and navigate into an "end spot" in the parking lot. Within 10 minutes we had found the exact filters we needed, checked ourselves out through the self-service line and were back in the car heading home.

That's what shareholders call "The Home Depot Touch."

Home Depot ( HD) will step into the earnings limelight before the market opens Tuesday and "touch" us all with its most recent earnings results.

This powerhouse is the only home improvement store chain that's a member of the prestigious Dow Jones Industrial Average composed of 30 of the biggest and most successful publicly traded companies in America. Every index fund that represents the DJIA has to own shares of HD. With the recovery in the housing market millions of Americans will be motivated to shop there.

Why, you so intuitively ask? Because if you have a house you want to sell you're going to want to improve it, remodel it or renovate it in a number of ways to make it more attractive. A fresh coat of paint or some new window fixtures plus an endearing door mat and a few ceiling fans and the buyers will find your house hard to resist. "Cha-ching" goes the HD cash registers and shareholders smile.

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Home Depot shares have moved higher as the good news about home prices and a housing recovery oozes from the talking heads on all the news channels. When you look at how the trailing 12-month revenue per share has been doing, you'll not be surprised by the one-year chart below.

HD Chart HD data by YCharts

Monday was the worst day of 2013 for the major market averages, and HD finished the day down 2.5% to close at $63.92 on heavy volume. It looked like shareholders were unloading ahead of HD's earnings confession just to play it safe.

Well, my friends, that's what those of us who want to buy HD shares at a more reasonable price want to see happen, right?

The analyst consensus estimate on HD for the final quarter of 2012 is for EPS to be up 28% over the year-ago quarter. That's quite heady, in my opinion, but certainly attainable. What will happen to the stock if HD misses by a few pennies? We who want to buy HD "on sale" won't be disappointed!

The same group of 25 analysts anticipates sales growth (revenue) to have improved by an average estimate of 10.50%. This would bring the annual revenue total to over $74 billion -- not too shabby for a company with a market cap of $96 billion.

As was reported Monday at TheStreet.com, Home Depot, "together with its subsidiaries, operates as a home improvement retailer. The company's stores sell building materials, and home improvement and lawn and garden products to do-it-yourself, do-it-for-me (at D-I-F-M), and professional customers. The company has a P/E ratio of 22.8, above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7.

" TheStreet Ratings rates Home Depot as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share, revenue growth, notable return on equity and increase in net income. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated."

It's interesting to compare HD with its main competitor Lowe's ( LOW), which fell almost 5% during Monday's huge market selloff.

LOW's quarterly earnings report was revealed on Monday and it beat estimates. As one report put it, "Lowe's knocked the ball out of the park." LOW is catching up with HD when it comes to share price and the financial fundamentals. Yet, investors sold the news with an enormous spike in volume.

Here's the one-year price and revenue chart for LOW and it looks a lot like HD's.

LOW Chart LOW data by YCharts

For the time being, we might have seen the highs for both LOW and HD. Both companies are selling at rich earnings multiples both trailing and forward (one-year). Both companies dividend yield-to-price are at puny levels of around 1.8%. That's low when compared to another DJIA stock, Coca-Cola ( KO), which yields nearly 3%.

So my forecast is for partly cloudy skies and a 50% chance of a little more share-price correction for HD, perhaps on the magnitude of what happened to LOW on Monday, depending on HD's numbers. The lower Bollinger Band price range for HD may suggest the downside may be around $63.

Then again, if you believe in HD, and if the company guides confidently for the quarters ahead, it may be off to the races" towards hitting the consensus one-year price target of nearly $70.

Seasoned investors may want to nibble just in case the rest of this week continues Monday's miserable market mood. Don't be fooled though, the bull market in stocks most likely has a long way to run.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Make smarter trading decisions and provide investment ideas that could help make you richer. Bryan Ashenberg does the dirty work so you don't have to!

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