Blaming the slowing economy,

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Home Depot, Inc. (HD) Report

issued an earnings warning for the company's fourth quarter. The home improvement retailer, one of the 30 components of the

Dow Jones Industrial Average, said it expects earnings of 20 cents a share for the fiscal fourth quarter, falling short of the 24 cents a share expected by the 22-brokers polled by earnings tracker

First Call/Thomson Financial

.

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The company said the slowing economy and falling prices for building materials are responsible for the shortfall. A year ago, the company reported earnings of 25 cents a share. Year-over-year sales are expected to be flat, compared with earlier expectations for 4% growth. Home Depot said the factors leading to the slowdown have extended to the first half of 2001.

In November, the company met lowered third-quarter earnings targets, but said it anticipated a tougher fourth quarter. At the time, it also blamed falling commodity prices and a more competitive retail environment.

Home Depot will report earnings for its fourth quarter, which ends Jan. 31, on Feb. 20.

The shares were down $2.25 to $42, a 5% drop, in preopen trading on electronic brokerage

Instinet

.