Home Depot Inc. on Tuesday lifted its outlook for the year again, as recovery in the U.S. housing market helped drive better-than-expected sales growth in its latest quarter. Home Depot said it now expects its per-share earnings to grow 13% to 14%, up from the 11% to 12% growth it had forecast in May. The company is looking for sales growth of 5.2% to 6%, compared to its May forecast for 4.2% to 4.8% growth. Home Depot said the guidance in part reflect the planned completion of its acquisition of Interline Brands Inc. and stock buybacks. Home Depot's sales have been helped by healthy spending among wealthier Americans in an improving housing market. In the latest quarter, sales rose 4.2% at stores open for more than a year, including 5.7% in the U.S. In a weak retail environment, home improvement stores like Home Depot remain an outlier with consumers showing more of a willingness to spend money replacing windows and to upgrade countertops than to splurge on fashion and everyday goods. Home Depot's sales are being driven by more people coming into its stores, as the number of transactions rose 2.6% in the period. Average ticket rose 1.7% to $59.42. Overall, for the period ended Aug. 2, the company reported earnings of $2.23 billion, or $1.73 a share, up from $2.05 billion, or $1.52 a share, a year earlier. Excluding a gain on the sale of its stake in HD Supply Holdings Inc., among other things, per-share earnings were $1.71 a share. Total sales grew 4.3% to $24.8 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast $1.71 in earnings on $24.7 billion in revenue. Home Depot also has had to contend with the aftermath of a widespread data breach last year. The company has said it faces several dozen civil suits in the issue in which millions of customers' credit-card information and emails were stolen. To combat future thefts, the company has completed a project to encrypt credit-card data at the point of sale. The company's first-quarter results included $92 million in pretax breach-related costs.
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