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HCN Stock Watch: All but one

BY HBSDEALER Staff

All but one of HCN’s Top 30 experienced a downturn at Thursday’s close, with Lumber Liquidators (LL) dropping a substantial 6.48%.

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HD spreads the word: every drop counts

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The Home Depot has launched a nationwide campaign to bring water conservation savvy to the masses, especially those in drought-affected areas.

On April 26, the retailer will hold free Water Conservation Workshops at all 1,977 of its U.S. locations, where attendees can learn ten different strategies for saving water.

These projects include converting to a dual-flush toilet, switching to EPA WaterSense labeled showerheads and faucets, installing drip irrigation and rotary nozzle or dual spray sprinklers and more.

"At The Home Depot, we’re committed to helping our customers solve everyday home improvement challenges, and for many, water conservation is one of those challenges," said Joe McFarland, president of the Western Division for The Home Depot. "We have the products and our associates have the know-how to help our customers identify water-saving solutions and implement them at home. These workshops help us to share that knowledge with our communities and inspire residents to take action."

Additionally, Home Depot has added unique signage and rearranged its inventory and displays in many stores in the Western U.S., aimed at educating consumers on strategies for conserving water.

The workshops will be held Saturday, April 26 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. local time. Details and registration information is located online.

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At HIRI event, a big picture is served

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Orlando, Fla. — James Gillula said he expects the United States unemployment rate to fall below 6.5% by mid-year. He cautioned that a slowdown in China could impact the U.S. economy. And he expects the home improvement industry to recoup pretty much all of its weather-related losses from the hash winter.

Those were some of the macroeconomic ideas supplied by Gillula during the 2014 Home Improvement Research Institute Spring Conference held here April 10. 

Gillula, the managing director of consulting services for IHS Global Insight, delivered an outlook for the U.S. economy and home improvement spending that called for increases in real consumer spending of 2.5% in 2014 and 3.1% in 2015.

Growth in the home improvement products market is expected to be even more robust, according to the IHS figures. Total sales in constant prices should increase from 3.0% growth in 2013 to 5.0% growth in 2014 (see chart).

The interest rate story, always important to home improvement marketers, is a little more complicated. IHS’s reading of this, he said, is that the Federal Reserve Board will keep short-term interest rates very low until deep into 2015, but long-term rates continue to edge up. Obviously, lower rates are better, but this slow rise in 30-year mortgage rates "doesn’t have to derail a housing recovery," Gillula said. 

After a 19% gain in 2013, housing starts will continue their rise as demand grows. In 2014, IHS expects an 18% increase in total housing starts, and a big 34% gain in 2015. Growth in household-formation rates are driving a large part of the optimism in this metric.

Still, the 2014 forecast was reduced slightly in the past few months. Why? Part of that reduction was the result of the extra cold winter, he said. But also general cost pressures in new-home construction dampened expectations slightly.

When walking through each of the metrics and measures, the trend was for growth and general optimism. However, Gillula added: "Our macro forecasters would say, ‘Walk with caution.’ "

The IHS economic outlook presentation was one of seven research-oriented presentations at the HIRI Spring Conference. 

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