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Merrill Keeps Buy on Home Depot

Merrill Lynch reiterated its near and long term buy on Home Depot (HD).

Analyst Peter Caruso says shares' valuation demands a second half turnaround.

He thinks five factors are supporting his view that a second half turnaround is gaining momentum: summer marks the end of comparisons against last year's housing boom, aided by mortgage refinancings, the duration of underperformance vs. other retailers is passing the normal turnaround point, lumber prices are now making a definite bottom, EBIT profit for the store has slumped to 1993 levels despite a major technology initiative, and expense growth per average store is starting to slow.

Caruso sees $1.31 fiscal 2002 (Jan.) EPS, and $1.45 fiscal 2003.

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