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Lowe's Comes Up Short

Bad weather keeps home-improving Americans away from stores.
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first-quarter earnings rose a weaker-than-expected 31% from a year ago, as bad weather tempered homeowners' enthusiasm for renovation.

The company earned $590 million, or 74 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $452 million, 58 cents a share, a year ago. Sales rose 14% from a year ago to $9.91 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting earnings of 76 cents a share on sales of $9.97 billion.

"While an unusually cold, wet March in many parts of the country created challenges, our stores delivered another strong quarter," the company said. "We achieved high single-digit comparable store sales in February and April, but they were offset by negative low single-digit comps in weather-affected March."

For the second quarter, Lowe's expects to earn $1 to $1.02 a share, compared with the analysts' forecast for $1.02 a share. For the full year, analysts expect earnings of $3.25 to $3.34 a share, compared with the analysts' forecast of $3.34 a share.

Lowe's said it opened 27 new stores, including two relocations, in the first quarter, and operated 1,112 stores as of April 29, 2005, representing a 13.1% rise in retail selling space compared with a year ago.

The stock closed Friday at $52.86.