) to strong buy from buy.
Analyst Alan Rifkin says he upgraded the home improvement company after being somewhat cautious for the past one and a half years. He has increased confidence in the company's estimated EPS of $1.23 for fiscal 2002 (Jan.) and $1.50 EPS for fiscal 2003. He says sales comparisons are poised to accelerate in the second half, as the Fed's aggressive moves provide a backdrop. Rifkin notes easier sales and lumber sales comparisons also will contribute.
Longer term, Rifkin thinks appliances can contribute 1%-2% to sales comparisons. He says Home Depot's new initiative is poised for a chainwide rollout, and he believes it will drive the average ticket, improve service, and boost sales comparisons. Rifkin says the management team is strong despite recent retirements. He has a $55 target.