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reported lower fourth-quarter earnings in line with analysts' expectations, as same-store sales for the period dropped 3%. Nevertheless, the No. 2 home improvement retailer raised its bottom-line projections for calendar 2001 and said it expects to open between 115 and 120 new stores during the year.

The Wilkesboro, N.C., company posted fourth-quarter earnings of $140.8 million, or 37 cents a share, down from $148.9 million, or 39 cents a share, in the same period last year. Twenty analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

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expected fourth-quarter earnings of 37 cents a share.

Fourth-quarter sales for the 14-week period ending Feb. 2, 2001 increased 19.9% to $4.5 billion, compared with $3.8 billion in sales for the 13-week period ending Jan. 28, 2000.

Lowe's said it expects earnings of $2.45 to $2.50 a share for the year ending Feb.1, 2002, compared with fiscal 2001 earnings of $2.11 a share, which it reported this morning. Analysts polled by First Call expected 2002 earnings of $2.40 a share.

Shares of the company closed at $54.58 in Friday trading on the

New York Stock Exchange

and have a 52-week range of $34.25 and $67.25.