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Home Depot's

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fourth-quarter earnings surpassed estimates as warm weather drove demand, and the company reaffirmed guidance for the first quarter.

Home Depot, which has benefited along with builders and thrifts from unbowed housing activity, earned $710 million, or 30 cents a share, in the quarter, two cents above the consensus estimate and up from $465 million, or 20 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales rose 29% to $13.5 billion while same-store sales rose 5%.

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Home Depot also expects to meet the current Wall Street consensus earnings estimate of 32 cents a share for the first quarter of fiscal 2002.

The report comes one day after rival


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

said earnings rose 55% in the fourth quarter and said 2002 earnings would beat analysts' estimates.