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ATLANTA-Locally based The Home Depot Inc. on Tuesday reported net earnings of $1.1 billion for the second quarter, down from $1.2 billion from a year earlier yet still ahead of analysts’ expectations. The chain reported a $20-million profit impact related to the closing of 34 Expo Design Centers stores announced earlier this year.

Sales for the most recent quarter totaled $19.1 billion, down 9% over the year. Comparable store sales for the quarter declined 8.5%, while comp sales for US stores were off 6.9%.

“Concerns about the housing market, rising unemployment and softness in the overall economy continue to pressure consumers,” Frank Blake, Home Depot chairman & CEO, stated in a release. “Our business performed well in a down market, we captured market share and drove operating productivity.”

Blake added in an earnings call that comparable store sales among Home Depot’s top 40 markets improved between the first and second quarters, with nearly 75% of those markets performing better. He noted significant improvement in two of the chain’s hardest-hit markets, California and Florida, though those comps are still running in the red.

Home Depot’s results were better than its top home-improvement rival, Mooresville, NC-based Lowe’s Cos., which Monday reported a 19% second-quarter profit decline. Lowe’s also said it will reduce its 2010 openings of new stores to between 35 and 45.

Home Depot currently has 2,240 stores, including 1,974 in the US. Another 178 stores are in Canada, along with 77 in Mexico and 11 in China. During the second quarter, the chain closed 41 stores while opening only five.

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