Home Depot: Not So Hot

"Warmer weather" may have boosted Home Depot's (NYS: HD) springtime fortunes, but investors should think twice before buying shares on yesterday's weakness. I'll be backing up my bearishness today with a CAPScall in our community intelligence database, Motley Fool CAPS.

Home Depot's first-quarter net income increased 27.5% to $1.04 billion, or $0.68 per share. Total revenue jumped 5.9% to $17.81 billion, same-store sales increased 5.8%, and U.S. comps jumped 6.1%.

Those aren't terrible results, but Home Depot's sales missed analysts' expectations for $17.96 billion in sales. Meanwhile, these may not be sustainable. Warm weather's been cited for helping Home Depot get a jump on things; spring is usually an especially lucrative time for the retailer, given the desire for planting materials and gardening gear.

However, the unusually warm weather this year also caused earlier sales of spring- and summer-inspired stuff like grills and lawn mowers. In other words, maybe the types of items most American consumers want from Home Depot have already been bought, and it's going to be a long, hot, dried-up summer for this stock.

The housing market remains shaky, even though homebuilder stocks like Lennar (NYS: LEN) , PulteGroup (NYS: PHM) , and D.R. Horton have all been flirting with 52-week highs. For more on the psychology of housing, Yale professor Robert Shiller recently talked to us here at Fool HQ about the illusion of housing as a "great investment."

Speaking of psychology, Home Depot capitalized off the housing bubble big-time. Regular Americans were absolutely convinced that home prices would always go up, and the amount they'd get for their homes would more than make up for any home improvements they invested in them.

We're currently very far away from those bubbly days. The fact that more than 4 million homes remain in the foreclosure process speaks volumes about the difficulties that face the housing market and many homeowners. That glut says prices won't pick up soon. Fewer consumers will see dollar signs when they think about making discretionary improvements; bye-bye Berber carpet and granite countertops. Sorry, Home Depot.

In the last year, Home Depot's shares have increased by about 33%. It's trading at 15 times forward earnings, a premium to rival Lowe's (NYS: LOW) , which sports a forward P/E of 13, and fellow big-box retailer Wal-Mart (NYS: WMT) , which is trading at 11 times forward earnings.

I believe Home Depot's risky at these levels, especially with a lackluster housing market, few psychological reasons for consumers to do much home improvement beyond the essentials, and the overall economic uncertainty. These elements don't scream "growth" for this retailer. I'm backing up my opinion with an underperform CAPScall on Home Depot; you can see my long-term track record here.

What do you think? Are you a buyer at these prices? Sound off on Home Depot and home-related stocks in the comments box below.

At the time thisarticle was published Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of The Home Depot. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores and writing covered calls on Lowe's. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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