Existing-home sales increase in January
Existing-home sales estimates began 2011 on a positive note: up 2.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.36 million. That’s up from a downwardly revised 5.22 million in December.
According to the estimate from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released Wednesday morning, existing-home sales are 5.3% ahead of the 5.09 million place in January 2010.
"The uptrend in home sales is consistent with improvements in the economy and jobs, which are helping boost consumer confidence,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “The extremely favorable housing affordability conditions are a big factor, but buyers have been constrained by unnecessarily tight credit. As a result, there are abnormally high levels of all-cash purchases, along with rising investor activity.”
The housing inventory situation is improving, according to the report. Total housing inventory at the end of January fell 5.1% to 3.38 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.6-month supply at the current sales pace, down from an 8.2-month supply in December. The inventory supply is at the lowest level since December 2009 when there was a 7.3-month supply.
Meanwhile, the prices of homes are slipping. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $158,800 in January, down 3.7% from January 2010, according to the NAR. Distressed homes edged up to a 37% market share in January from 36% in December. The figure stood at 38% in January 2010.
Dishwashers pull ahead in appliances sales
A study on major home appliances by The NPD Group showed overall growth in the category in 2010, with an 11% increase in dollar sales compared to 2009.
Although sales for most appliances did not reach pre-recession levels, dishwashers were one exception, showing a 22% increase in dollar sales over 2009, putting them on level with 2007.
Full-sized refrigerators and range hoods both experienced double-digit unit and dollar growth, with laundry appliances coming in just under 10% in dollar growth.
One of the smallest categories, ovens, showed significant growth in 2010, up 42% in dollars compared to 2009.
Peterman Goldman, president of NPD’s home division, attributed some of the gains to government rebate incentives and the abundance of promotional offers early in the year.
Lowe’s posts solid results
Fourth-quarter earnings at Lowe’s increased 39.0% to $285 million, as sales increased for the quarter and the year.
The earnings exceeded previous guidance, as the company increased comp-store sales and gross margins.
The Mooresville, N.C.-based home improvement giant reported fourth quarter sales of $10.5 billion, up 2.9% from the prior-year quarter. For the full year ended Jan. 28, sales increased 3.4% to $48.8 billion.
Comparable store sales were up 1.1% in the quarter, and up 1.3% for the full year.
"While uncertainty in the market remains, the economic recovery is continuing," Niblock added. "We are committed to delivering better customer experiences and expect to grow market share in 2011 as we make continued progress on our key initiatives."
For the full year, Lowe’s net earnings increased 12.7% to $2.0 billion.
The results came the day after rival Home Depot posted its fourth quarter and full year earnings, which also showed significant gains. Sales for Home Depot were up 2.8% for the year, and up 3.8% in the quarter.
During the quarter, Lowe’s opened 17 stores and closed two. At the end of the quarter, Lowe’s operated 1,749 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico representing 197.1 million square feet of retail selling space, a 2.0% increase over last year.
In fiscal 2011, a year in which the company will enjoy an extra week of business, total sales are expected to increase approximately 5%, including the 53rd week. Lowe’s expects comparable store sales to increase 1% to 2%.
Also looking forward, the company expects to open 25 to 30 stores in 2011 reflecting total square footage growth of approximately 1.5%.