MOORESVILLE, NC-While California and Florida remain challenging housing markets, the Northeast is starting to pick up, Lowe’s Cos. executives said at its second quarter conference call.

A decline in big-ticket items, as well as comparisons to the hurricane-ridden 2005 resulted in comp-store sales declines of 2.6%. But sales of installed goods, particularly in the Northeast, are beginning to pick up, an “encouraging” sign, said Robert A. Niblock, chairman and CEO

“It’s important to remember that most of the impact [of the housing crisis] has been regional, and the impact on our business has been regional,” Niblock said. “It is encouraging that there are areas of improvement in segments of the country, [such as] the Northeast.”

Sales for the quarter increased 5.8% from 2006 to $14.2 billion. Earnings were $1.02 billion, up 9.0% over the same period in 2006.

During the second quarter, Lowe’s opened 26 new stores, including two relocations. In the third quarter, the company expects to open 40 new stores. The company expects to open a total of 150 to 160 stores in 2007. Lowe’s operate 1,424 stores in 49 states.

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