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ATLANTA-With the US housing market still in turmoil, and the economic downturn spreading overseas, expect declining sales for the fourth quarter and beyond, Home Depot executives said at the company’s third-quarter conference call. With sales declining in the US, and comps down in Canada and China, total sales could be down 8% for the year, the chain predicted. “We continue to predict a challenging sales environment,” said Carol Tomé, EVP and CFO. “We’re controlling what we can control.”

Overall comps declined 8.3% for the quarter, with weakness now spreading to formerly healthy US markets, reported Frank Blake, chairman & CEO. Canada and China, too, saw decreases, the latter due in part to the Olympic Games. Mexico remains healthy, he said.

The company continues to assess its new stores, but there were no announcements of openings or closures. “We look every quarter at our stores and try to make sure we’re doing the right thing with the stoppers we have open,” Blake said. “With our ‘orange box stores’ we don’t see a dramatic change from what we saw in the first quarter on the value of those stores.”

Sales for the third quarter totaled $17.8 billion, a 6.2% decrease from the same quarter last year. Comps declined 7.1% once a calendar shift was excluded. Net earnings were $756 million, compared with $1.1 billion in the same quarter last year.

At the end of the quarter, the company operated a total of 2,268 retail stores, including locations in the US (including Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Guam), Canada, Mexico and China, as well as THD Design Centers, Yardbirds stores and EXPO Design Centers.

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