Blue-chip dividend payer Home Depot has handle on housing crisis

Ah, the housing bubble. How Home Depot (HD) must miss thee.

In 2003 -- or about the time it began to dawn on some then-dismissed Cassandras that folks were using their houses as automatic teller machines -- Home Depot booked $65 billion in sales (that's for its fiscal year ended February 2004). Three years later -- at the height of the bubble -- the nation's largest home improvement retailer's sales topped $79 billion. Net income during the bubble likewise grew handsomely, to $5.3 billion from $4.3 billion.

Naturally, the market rewarded such performance: If you picked up this component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in early 2003, you were sitting on a paper gain of 70 percent by the end of 2006.

And then (pardon the expression) the roof caved in.