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Lowe's posts earnings of 98 cents a share vs. 85 cents expected

Home improvement chain Lowe's on Wednesday followed larger rival Home Depot in reporting better-than-expected quarterly sales as strength in the housing market and favorable weather led to strong demand for building and home renovation products.

Shares of Lowe's gained more than 3 percent Wednesday.

Results from the home improvement chains stand in stark contrast to grim quarterly reports from retailers such as Macy's as consumers shift away from apparel and accessories to big-ticket items including cars and homes.

E-commerce and home improvement remain pockets of strength in a choppy and volatile consumer-spending backdrop, Robert W. Baird analysts wrote in a pre-earnings note.

Lowe's posted first-quarter earnings per share of 98 cents, compared with 70 cents a share in the year-earlier period. Earnings adjusted for nonrecurring gains were 87 cents per share.

Revenue for the quarter came in at $15.2 billion, against the year-earlier figure of $14.13 billion.

Analysts had expected Lowe's to report earnings of about 85 cents a share on $14.87 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Sales at stores open more than 13 months rose 7.3 percent, well above the 4.3 percent growth expected by analysts polled by research firm Consensus Metrix.

The quarter marked the first time in years that Lowe's has closed the gap with Home Depot in terms of comparable store sales growth, Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Brian Nagel noted. Global comps increased 6.5 percent at Home Depot in the first quarter.

However, Lowe's posted weaker gross margin growth than Home Depot, Nagel told CNBC's "Squawk Box." As such, the report is not as good as the headline figures suggest, he said.

Lowe's said it expects full-year earnings per share of $4.11, up from its previous forecast of $4 a share, with sales rising approximately 6 percent and same-store sales up about 4 percent.

In February, the retailer said it would buy its Canadian counterpart, Rona. As part of the $2.28 billion deal, Lowe's said it would pay C$24 per share for common shares of Rona.

The acquisition would add 700 Canadian stores to Lowe's locations. The retailer currently only has 40 in the country.

Wires contributed to this report.