Lowe’s profit meets analysts’ estimates

MOORESVILE, N.C. — Lowe’s fiscal fourth-quarter net income rose 6 percent, as the home-improvement retailer continued to benefit from the housing market’s recovery.

The company also announced a new $5 billion stock repurchase program Wednesday.

Its stock surged in premarket trading.

The U.S. housing market has emerged from a deep slump, aided by rising home prices, steady job growth and fewer troubled loans dating back to the housing-bubble days. That has spurred customers to spend more to renovate their homes.

But housing demand this year could slow in 2014 and that in turn might slow down spending on homes.

Chairman, President and CEO Robert Niblock said in a statement that Lowe’s saw solid results in its core home improvement categories during the quarter, while sales of seasonal gifts and holiday decorations were softer.

“When extreme winter weather arrived late in the quarter, our distribution network responded quickly and efficiently to move product where it was most needed,” he added.

Lowe’s Cos. earned $306 million, or 29 cents per share, for the period ended Jan. 31. That’s up from $288 million, or 26 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding impairment charges, earnings were 31 cents per share. That matched the expectations of analysts polled by FactSet.

Lowe’s shares gained $3.29, or 6.8 percent, to $51.40 in premarket trading about three hours ahead of the market opening.

Revenue rose 6 percent to $11.66 billion from $11.05 billion. Wall Street forecast $11.67 billion.

Sales at stores open at least a year increased 3.9 percent. This figure is a key gauge of a retailer’s health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

Lowe’s financial report comes a day after larger rival Home Depot Inc.’s quarterly results topped analysts’ estimates on cost cuts despite sluggish sales.

The home improvement retailers’ results are being reported as new data shows U.S. home prices fell for the second straight month in December as cold weather, tight supply and higher costs slowed sales. The Standard &Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index declined 0.1 percent from November to December. And other reports have showed that home sales and construction have slowed after strong gains last year. Most economists expect the housing recovery will continue this year, though likely at a slower pace.

For the full year, Lowe’s earned $2.29 billion, or $2.14 per share. In the prior year it earned $1.96 billion, or $1.69 per share. Annual revenue rose 6 percent to $53.42 billion from $50.52 billion.

Looking ahead, the company foresees fiscal 2014 earnings of about $2.60 per share, with revenue rising approximately 5 percent. Based on fiscal 2013’s revenue of $53.42 billion, this implies approximately $56.1 billion.

Analysts expect earnings of $2.64 per share on revenue of $56.19 billion.

Lowe’s also announced a new $5 billion buyback. The company said that the remaining $1.3 billion balance under its prior repurchase program will continue to be used, for a total authorization of $6.3 billion as of Jan. 31.

Lowe’s had 1,832 stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico as of the quarter’s end.

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