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reported fourth-quarter earnings this morning that met Wall Street's slightly lowered estimates, but the company offered a bleak forecast for the upcoming quarter, citing soft home improvement product sales and higher energy costs.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Masco earned 30 cents a diluted share, excluding one-time charges, down from 40 cents a share in the year-ago period. Thirteen analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

expected the company, which is based in Taylor, Mich., to earn 30 cents a share.

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Masco, a maker of home improvement and building products, posted fourth-quarter revenue of $1.7 billion, up slightly from $1.6 billion in the same quarter one year ago.

The company said softening in the sales of home improvement products in North America and Europe, higher energy costs, a less-favorable product mix and inventory reductions hurt sales and profit margins in the fourth quarter.

Masco believes these factors will also lower first-quarter earnings, which the company previously estimated would be 25 cents to 30 cents a share. The company now expects earnings at the lower end of the projected range. Analysts initially expected the company earn 34 cents a share, but lowered their estimate to 27 cents a share, the current consensus.

Masco said the first quarter should represent the low point in quarterly earnings during the year.

Shares of Masco fell 60 cents, or 2.5%, to $23.25 in recent

New York Stock Exchange