May 22- No. 2 home improvement chain Lowe's Cos Inc reassured investors that sales trends improved significantly in April and May after seeing a weak start to the spring selling season. Like its larger rival Home Depot Inc, Lowe's said it was seeing strong sales to contractors.
Lowe's said Wednesday that its first-quarter net income rose nearly 3 percent, but results fell short of expectations as rainy weather hurt spring gardening sales. CEO Robert Niblock, speaking on a conference call with analysts, discussed how results fared in areas that didn't have chilly weather this spring.
*Lowe's sees higher sales in current fiscal year. *Lowe's shares down 1.8 percent; Home Depot dips 0.2 percent.