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Lowe's Tempers Profit Forecast

Sales have been below expectations.


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

, noting weaker-than-expected sales and a cautious consumer outlook, said Monday that it now expects full-year earnings to be near the low end of its earlier guidance.

Last month, the home-improvement chain forecast fiscal-year earnings of $2 to $2.07 a share -- a projection that was

lowered from an earlier forecast. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call currently expect earnings of $2.01 a share for the year ending in January.

The company, giving an updated outlook ahead of an analyst day Tuesday, said Monday that sales are trending below expectations.

"We remain focused on strategies to drive market share, however, near-term pressures on the U.S. consumer have led to a more cautious outlook for the second half of the year," said Robert Niblock, Lowe's chairman, president and CEO, in a statement.

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Shares of Lowe's and rival

Home Depot

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have been under pressure this year on concerns that the slowing U.S. housing market will substantially cut demand for home-improvement materials, while rising gas prices will hit consumers' discretionary spending. For its part, Home Depot

said last month that it expects to hit the bottom end of its full-year guidance.

Lowe's said it will continue investing in store growth, adding about 155 stores in 2007 and 150 in 2008. The company expects the new stores will help sales grow 10% to 13% in 2007 and 11% to 13% in 2008.

On the bottom line, the retailer expects 10% to 14% EPS growth in 2007 and a 12% to 16% EPS rise in 2008.

Shares of Lowe's were down 61 cents, or 2.1%, to $28.23 in after-hours trading.