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ATLANTA-The Home Depot Inc., the locally based home improvement retailing giant, posted a 44% increase in profits through its first fiscal quarter ending earlier this month. However, company executives are worried that foreclosures in the detached housing sector could impact future results.

“We are concerned about accelerating rates of foreclosures, particularly in the western part of the country where there is already a high density,” Frank Blake, Home Depot chairman and CEO, stated during a conference call Tuesday. He noted that sales for the first quarter ending May 3 totaled $16.2 billion, declining 10% from the year-earlier period.

Home Depot is proceeding with the closing of its 48 EXPO Design Centers announced earlier this year. The company opened only five new Home Depot stores during the first quarter, along with a regional distribution center in Valdosta, GA.

First-quarter net income amounted to $514 million, up from $356 million a year ago and slightly ahead of analysts’ projections. The quarterly results include $117 million in costs related to the EXPO closings.

Home Depot’s biggest retail rival, Hendersonville, NC-based Lowe’s Companies Inc., on Monday posted a 22% decline in first-quarter earnings of $476 million while sales fell 1.5% over the year to $11.8 billion, with same-store sales down 6.6%. Lowe’s also plans fewer store openings this year.

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