Updated from 8:31 a.m. EST

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

shares were higher Tuesday after saying fourth-quarter earnings shot up a better-than-expected 40% from a year ago on a same-store sales gain that surpassed that of archrival

Lowe's

(LOW) - Get Report

.

Atlanta-based Home Depot earned $951 million, or 42 cents a share, in the latest quarter compared with earnings of $686 million, or 30 cents a share, last year. Sales rose 14.5% to $15.13 billion on a 7.6% year-over-year increase in same-store sales. Home Depot's same-store sales fell 6% in the year-ago quarter.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson One Analytics were forecasting earnings of 39 cents a share on sales of $15.15 billion. Home Depot shares were recently up 52 cents, or 1.5%, to $35.90.

For 2004, the company repeated that it expects sales to increase 9% to 12% and earnings to rise 10% to 14%, excluding an accounting change, over 2003. Home Depot earned $1.88 a share on sales of $64.82 billion in all of 2003.

Home Depot, which plans to open 175 new stores in 2004, said it processed 287 million customer transactions in the most recent quarter, up 7.1% from a year ago.

On Monday, Lowe's reported fourth-quarter earnings that were a penny better than estimates on a 7.3% jump in same-store sales. After falling slightly Monday, Lowe's stock was recently unchanged at $56.67.