MOORESVILLE, NC-Driven by strong sales in energy-efficient products, Lowe’s Cos. Inc. achieved netearnings of $649 million for the third quarter, a25.8% increase compared to the same period a year ago.Diluted earnings per share increased 24.6% to 81 centsfrom 65 cents in the third quarter of 2004, beatingthe chain’s previous guidance.

The home improvement retailer, which operates 1,170stores in 49 states, boasted $10.6 billion in sales, up 16.9%from $9.1 billion in the third quarter of 2004.Comparable store sales for the third quarter increased6.2%. Specifically, energy-efficient products such as insulation and weather stripping achieved double-digit comps, said Lowe’s chairman, president and CEO Robert Niblock during the chain’s earnings conference call.

During the quarter, Lowe’s posted positive comparablestore sales in all 20 product categories and 19 of 21 geographic regions, according to Niblock. “The vast majority of our customers are homeowners and they are simply unwilling to let what is their most valuable asset deteriorate,” he said.

During the quarter, Lowe’s opened 33 new stores andtemporarily closed one store impacted by HurricaneKatrina. Looking forward, the retailer expects to open63 new stores and reopen the one store that wastemporarily closed because of Hurricane Katrina duringthe fourth quarter. The chain is projecting a salesincrease of 22% and comp-store sales increase of 4% to6%.

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