reports on the relative good fortune of the home improvement retailers, who, to some extent, a profiting from the headwinds facing the new-home building business.

Soaring lumber prices, rising mortgage rates, and a dearth of skilled workers are a triple threat looming over the housing industry right now. That spells bad news for homebuilders, but not for home-improvement chains.

That’s because anything that slows production of new homes -- like an industry labor shortage -- should increase demand for existing ones, and, in theory, boost their values. Rising home prices convince people to see their residences as investments and make them feel better about renovating a bathroom or adding a patio to the backyard with the help of Home Depot Inc. or Lowe’s Cos.

“We don’t build houses, and we don’t really play to” people buying newly built homes, Home Depot Chief Financial Officer Carol Tome said in a recent interview, citing the 123 million occupied homes in the U.S. that far exceed the approximately 1 million housing starts expected this year. “What matters is the occupied housing base. That’s a lot of households for us to sell to.”

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