MOORESVILLE, NC-Lowe’s Companies Inc. has announced arecord quarter of earnings and sales for the thirdquarter 2004. The home improvement retailer reported net earnings of$522 million for the quarter ending October 29, 2004,a 15.5% increase over the same period a year ago.Diluted earnings per share increased 17.9% to $0.66from $0.56 in the third quarter of 2003.

According Thompson First Call, analysts were expectingprofit of $0.65 per share. For the fourth-quarter,Lowe’s is forecast earnings per share of $0.58 to$0.60.

During the third quarter, sales increased 16.2% to$9.1 billion, up from $7.8 billion in the thirdquarter of 2003. The company says it expects to doeven better during the fourth quarter and forecastssales to increase 16% to 17% over the same period lastyear.

Comparable store sales for the third quarter increased5.2%. The increase, coupled with the 12.2% for thethird quarter last year represented the best two-yearperformance for comparable store sales in nearly adecade, according to Lowe’s president, Robert A.Niblock.

During the third quarter, Lowe’s was operating in117.5 million sf of retail space, a 13.4% over thesame period last year. During the quarter, Lowe’sopened 35 new stores including one relocation. “Thisnumber is the most we’ve ever opening in a quarter,”Niblock says.

During the fourth quarter, Lowe’s says it expects toopen 56 stores and for the entire year, it expects toopen 140 stores. “We’re confident of the opportunitiesthat lie ahead for our small-store format… and ourlarge-store format…,” Niblock says.

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