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The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.



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(LOW) - Get Lowe's Companies, Inc. Report

, the second-largest home-improvement retailer in the U.S., will announce its fourth quarter and annual results on Monday, Feb. 27. Last quarter, the company's sales exceeded expectations, yet trailed the overall market and its main competitor

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Home Depot, Inc. Report

. Home Depot's recent Q4 results have out-performed analysts' estimates, riding on bumper holiday and warmer winter sales.

Apart from the holiday and winter sales performance, Lowe's fourth-quarter results will provide an update on its recent restructuring and rebranding initiatives, as well as the impact of the newly rolled out online tool "MyLowes" on its online sales.

See our complete analysis of Lowe's


Lowe's Self-Improvement Under Way

Lowe's finished its third quarter with

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better-than-expected sales but was outperformed by Home Depot. It also raised its fiscal 2011 guidance by 2-3% from 2% previously. In comparison, Home Depot's sales have grown by 3.5% during 2011.

Nonetheless, the company's management has been proactive with recent organizational restructuring and efficiency initiatives. It recently launched a

new branding campaign and an online tool "MyLowes" to boost web sales. In the earnings, we will watch for how these efforts have translated into improved sales and market share.

Last quarter, Lowe's had indicated a 8% sales growth target for Q4, particularly through online sales despite seeing some margin compression. Its Q4 performance should also benefit from holiday sales and demand for outdoor projects, similar to Home Depot, whose sales jumped by 6% last quarter.

Lowe's Take on Industry Trends

Home Depot noted steady recovery in the hardest hit housing markets, particularly Florida and California. Nonetheless, the company maintained a cautious view on the housing market recovery and the overall recovery of the home improvement sector, despite signs of some improvements in private fixed residential investments (which are still at historical lows) and home builder sentiment.

During the earnings, we will also watch for Lowe's take on the overall trends in the home improvement retail sector and its future business outlook.

We have a $25.44 Trefis price estimate for

Lowe's Companies, at 5% discount to the current market price.



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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.