Permanent fix of U.S. housing to take time: Home Depot CEO

Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:28pm EDT
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By Dhanya Skariachan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. housing market is starting to thaw, but it could be two years before a full-blown recovery takes hold, Home Depot Inc (HD.N: Quote) Chief Executive Frank Blake said on Thursday.

The world's largest home improvement retailer has seen the benefits of the nascent U.S. housing recovery as professional contractors have started buying more in recent months.

"It's starting to recover, but we're a long way away from true recovery," Blake, 63, told Reuters in a wide-ranging interview that touched on his views of the so-called Fiscal Cliff to why he sees the internet as Home Depot's next frontier.

The comments came less than a week after two influential Federal Reserve officials blamed the disappointing rebound in U.S. housing for continuing to trip up the country's overall economic recovery.

"This housing market's been very, very bad and it's going to take some time to recover," Blake said.

A bubble in the U.S. housing market was at the core of the 2007-2009 financial crisis, which started the same year that Blake became CEO. During the housing downturn, Home Depot's sales at established stores fell more than 20 percent in markets such as Florida and California.

"The way we look at it is there's going to be a period of a workout, a fine period of one to two years and then you're going to get a more robust recovery," Blake said.

Credit availability and the overhang of distressed housing are among the reasons the housing market can't "just spring back" to where it was before the recession, Blake said.   Continued...

Chairman and CEO of The Home Depot, Frank Blake, speaks during an interview in New York October 11, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid