Home improvement retailer Lowe's ( LOW) reported third-quarter earnings of $488 million, or 33 cents a share, a decline of 24% from a year earlier as consumers delayed buying discretionary goods and bigger ticket items. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected Lowe's to report earnings of 28 cents a share. Sales for the quarter rose 1.4% to $11.7 billion from $11.6 billion a year earlier. Same-store sales fell 5.9%. Lowe's reported year-earlier third-quarter earnings of $643 million, or 43 cents a share. "During the quarter, products related to ongoing home maintenance and outdoor projects continued to perform relatively well. Also, we experienced a hurricane-related sales lift in the Gulf Coast as residents repaired storm damage," said Robert Niblock, Lowe's chairman and CEO, in a statement Monday. "However, consumers continued to delay discretionary home improvement and bigger ticket purchases, which resulted in negative comparable store sales in the quarter." Lowe's said it expects "continued, broad-based external pressures on our industry, as rising unemployment, falling home prices, tight credit and volatile equity markets continue to erode consumer confidence and impact sales." The company said it remains cautious in the near term. Lowe's said it expects same-store sales in the fourth quarter to decline 5% to 10%, and is forecasting earnings of 8 cents to 16 cents a share. The company expects fiscal-year earnings of between $1.46 and $1.54 a share. Analysts expect the company will earn 18 cents a share for the quarter and $1.51 a share for the year.