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MOORESVILLE, NC-Even as the hard-hit home improvement industry is beginning to stabilize at home, Lowe’s Cos. will open its first units in Mexico in the fourth quarter, executives said at the company’s third quarter conference call.

The company plans to open 13 new units in the quarter, including two in Monterrey, said Bob Hall, CFO. And despite an overall sales decline, some markets are starting to bounce back somewhat, noted Robert A. Niblock, chairman and CEO.

“Some of the biggest improvements have come in areas hardest hit by the housing downturn,” including California, Florida and the Southwest, he said.

Sales for the quarter declined 3% to $11.4 billion, down from $11.7 billion in the third quarter of 2008. Comparable store sales for the third quarter declined 7.5%. Net earnings were $344 million, down 29.5% from year-ago quarter.

During the quarter, Lowe’s opened 12 stores and closed one store. For the year, the company expects to open approximately 64 stores in 2009.

As of October 30, 2009, Lowe’s operated 1,699 stores in the United States and Canada.

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