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MOORESVILLE, NC-Lowe’s is cutting its new-store growth by 20 units this year, but the home-improvement retailer still has 120 new locations in the works. The company is cutting back new stores in markets that are feeling economic pressure, executives said during their fourth-quarter conference call.

“We’ll be ready to add stores when the time is right,” said Larry Stone, Lowe’s president and chief operation officer. The retailer has faced challenges in California, Florida and the Gulf Coast region.

Same-store sales for the quarter, which ended Feb. 1, declined 7.6% year over year, as problems in the housing market held the retailer back. Total sales fell 0.3%, to just under $10.4 billion, while diluted earnings per share sank 30%, to 28 cents.

For 2008, executives are forecasting a 5% to 6% decline in same-store sales from 2007, while total sales are expected to fall 3%. Lowe’s is spending $103 million this year on new-store openings.

Lowe’s opened it first stores in Canada in December and currently operates seven in the Toronto area. The retailer operates 1,525 units throughout North America.

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