Housing market blamed
The world's biggest home improvement retailer, Home Depot, revealed first-quarter retail sales slid 4.3 per cent to US$18.5 billion (£9.36 billion), because of a challenging housing market.

Comparable store sales declined 7.6 per cent for the three months to April 29. Total sales increased just 0.6 per cent to US$21.6 billion (£10.92 billion) and net earnings were US$1 billion (£505.9 million), compared with US$1.5 billion (£758.9 million) in 2006.

Home Depot chairman and chief executive officer Frank Blake said: 'The housing market continues to be a challenge and erratic weather conditions across the US negatively affected our spring season.'

He added: 'We believe the home improvement market will remain soft throughout 2007. We plan to continue our reinvestment plans for the long-term health of the business, understanding that it will put short-term pressure on earnings.'

The retailer operates 2,170 stores in the US, Canada, Mexico and China.