Home Depot says the magic word: ‘Robust’ by John Kell @FortuneMagazine May 20, 2014, 1:43 PM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons FORTUNE — One word from Home Depot’s HD Chief Financial Officer was all it took to reverse a slide in the home-improvement retailer’s share price Tuesday.After sinking in pre-market trading, shares of Home Depot recovered and rallied as Carol Tome said the home-improvement retailer’s May sales would be “robust,” pacifying investors who had traded the company’s shares lower after its fiscal first-quarter sales growth failed to meet Wall Street’s expectations due to a slow start to the key spring selling season.Tome’s comments helped investors focus on stronger recent results and assurance from executives that worries of a housing slowdown are unfounded.“We believe that most of the sales lost to ‘snow on the ground’ in the first quarter will be realized in the second quarter,” Tome told analysts during Home Depot’s conference call. “Further, May sales are robust, so today, we are affirming the sales guidance [for the fiscal year.]”MORE: Pop-up shops are becoming more permanent“Carol, I think you got some people excited with that word robust,“ said Zelman & Associates analyst Dennis McGill, one of several analysts to focus on that word during the company’s conference call.In an interview with Fortune, Tome said while Home Depot can’t predict when spring will come, results in the first half of the year counterbalance each other regardless of weather fluctuations.Tome expects Home Depot will sell lots of plants, mulches, pipe and fittings and roofing items during the second quarter, with some of the sales either driven by the late spring or repair work needed after the harsh winter.MORE: Microsoft unveils new Surface Pro 3 tabletOverall, Home Depot’s net sales jumped 2.9% to $19.69 billion for the quarter ended May 4, missing the $19.95 billion estimate by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The retailer recorded 344 million transactions during the quarter, 7 million more than last year.Chief Executive Frank Blake said after a delayed spring in the U.S. and Canada last year, the retailer had expected more normal conditions this spring.“Instead, much of the U.S. and Canada had an even colder spring, and this had a significant impact on our sales.”Despite the poor weather, Home Depot continues to benefit from a recovering housing market and the retailer’s own internal efforts to improve customer service and revamp its supply chain. Those efforts paid off in the latest period, as Home Depot said it was kept salt in stock in regions affected by the poor winter weather even as other retailers ran out of supply.MORE: Where can the middle class actually afford to buy a home?And while some data suggests the housing market’s recovery has stalled in the U.S., a worrying trend for the key spring home-buying season, Home Depot executives said homeowners are inspired to spend more on their houses when they see home prices climb, a tailwind that has continued even as other housing metrics weaken.The median existing-home price rose 11.5% to just over $197,000 in 2013 from the year-earlier period, according to the National Association of Realtors. The trade association has also reported higher existing-home prices for the first three months of this year.Blake said Home Depot’s view on the recovery in the home improvement market “has not changed,” saying that while the retailer doesn’t expect the recovery to be as dramatic as last year, it still believes higher home prices, affordability, and an aging housing stock in need of investment will boost sales.