When you're directly tied to the depressed housing market, and your shareholders desperately want to see a bottom, even though it may not be anywhere near on the horizon - in reality. Loweâs Quarterly Profit Declines 11.5 Percent By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: February 23, 2007 Filed at 10:48 a.m. ET http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/business/AP-Earns-Lowes.html CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Lowe's Cos., the nation's second biggest home improvement store chain, said Friday that its fourth-quarter profit fell 11.5 percent as the market slowed amid a continued slump in the housing sector. But the results topped expectations and the company's shares rose nearly 5 percent. ''With everything we experienced in 2006, I am still greatly pleased,'' said Robert A. Niblock, Lowe's chairman and chief executive on a conference call with analysts. The Mooresville, N.C.-based retailer said it earned $613 million, or 40 cents a share, for the three months ended Feb. 2, down from $693 million, or 43 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue fell 3.7 percent to $10.4 billion from $10.8 billion a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting net income of 37 cents a share on revenue of $10.36 billion. The estimate for earnings typically excludes one-time items. Same-store sales, a key measure of industry performance that is based on sales in stores open at least one year, fell 5.3 percent. The company, which opened 58 stores in the quarter, had expected same-store sales decline of 4 percent to 6 percent for the quarter. The decline was a result of pressure by a slowing housing market, significant deflation in lumber and plywood prices and tough comparisons to last year when rebuilding efforts were underway after an especially damaging hurricane season, Niblock said. On top of the housing market downturn, the fourth quarter is seasonally the weakest for home-improvement retailers as the colder weather typically results in fewer building and renovation projects, he said. Still, the results encouraged Wall Street. Lowe's shares rose $1.62, or 4.8 percent, to $35.25 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange after reaching a 52-week high of $35.74 earlier in the session. On Tuesday, bigger rival Home Depot Inc. said its fourth-quarter income dropped 28 percent. Its same-store sales dropped 6.6 percent. For the year, Lowe earnings rose 12.3 percent to $3.11 billion, or $1.99 a share, from $2.77 billion, or $1.73 a share, a year earlier. Twelve-month revenue rose 8.6 percent to $46.9 billion from $43.2 billion in the previous year. Lowe's expects to earn 49 cents to 51 cents a share for the first quarter and show sales growth of 5 percent to 6 percent. The company anticipates same-store sales decline of 2 percent to 4 percent for the period. For fiscal 2007, the company expects to earn $2.02 to $2.09 a share. It plans to open 150 to 160 stores and estimates total sales growing about 10 percent. Same-store sales are projected to be flat up to 2 percent.