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Home Depot's income rises 32%

Home Depot Inc. said Tuesday that its fiscal fourth-quarter net income went up 32 percent as homeowners spent more on renovation projects, in part due to the mild weather in the United States.

Coping with prolonged weakness in the housing market, home-goods sellers such as Home Depot have adjusted to the fact that fewer consumers are making large-scale home renovations by cutting costs and improving services such as online shopping.

But the sales increase at the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer shows there may be pent-up demand for home improvement, even during the winter, and it offers a glimmer of hope during the housing slump.

Last week, the Commerce Department said builders broke ground on a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 699,000 homes in January; a number that nearly matches November's three-year high.

At Home Depot, top-performing categories included tools, electrical supplies, building materials, paint, lumber, lighting, outdoor garden products and flooring.

"Warmer-than-expected weather encouraged customers to tackle exterior projects," the company's executive vice president of merchandising, Craig Menear, said during a call with analysts. "Our merchants reacted quickly to this opportunity and worked alongside our stores and suppliers to leverage our supply chain and drive results."

That helped categories such as gutters, roofing, vinyl siding and patio furniture, more than offsetting weakness in typical winter categories such as snow removal, fireplaces and portable heating, the Atlanta company said.

The company said it earned $774 million, or 50 cents per share, for the period that ended Jan. 29. That's up from $587 million, or 36 cents per share, a year earlier. Quarterly revenue increased 6 percent to $16.01 billion.

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