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Lowe's Fourth Quarter Profit Falls 12%, Hurt By Weak Housing Market

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Home improvement retailer Lowe'sreported quarterly profit fell 12%, hurt by weakness in the U.S. housing market and comparisons with last year, when sales were boosted by rebuilding following a series of hurricanes.

Lowe's said it expects earnings to improve later in the calendar year.
The second-largest home improvement retailer behind Home Depot said it earned $613 million, or 40 cents a share, in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Feb. 2, compared with earnings of $693 million, or 43 cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, expected profit of 37 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial.

Sales fell 3.7% to $10.41 billion, helped by the opening of 58 stores.

Sales from stores open at least a year slipped 5.3%. The Mooresville, N.C., company, which ended the period with 1,385 stores, had expected same-store sales to be down between 4% to 6% in the latest period.

"We are encouraged by indications that our sales trends have bottomed," said Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Niblock in a written statement. "As a result, we believe our comparable store sales performance will gradually improve throughout 2007."

Lowe's expects to earn 49 cents to 51 cents for the fiscal first quarter and register sales growth of 5% to 6%. The company anticipates a same-store sales decline of 2% to 4% for the period.

For the fiscal year, the company expects to open 150 to 160 stores and estimates total sales growing at about 10%. Same-store sales are projected to be flat to up 2%, and earnings are estimated to be in the range of $2.02 to $2.09 a share.

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