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Lowe's 4Q adjusted profit meets analysts' estimates; announces $5B stock repurchase program

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Lowe's fiscal fourth-quarter net income rose 6 per cent, 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 on Wednesday. Shares of the company rose nearly 6 per cent in morning 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.

Housing market growth is expected to slow in 2014 but CEO Robert Niblock said in a call with investors he thinks consumer spending on home projects will stay strong.

"Homeowners continue to believe the value of their home is increasing and report that they are less likely to decrease spending," he said. "With consumers more willing to invest in their homes, the job and income growth forecast for 2014 should provide the wherewithal for continued home improvement spending."

Lowe's strong results came the same day as the Commerce Department said that U.S. sales of new homes rebounded in January to the fastest pace in more than five years. That gave some hope that housing could be regaining momentum after a slowdown last year caused by rising interest rates.

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.

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

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.

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 per cent 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 per cent. Based on fiscal 2013's revenue of $53.42 billion, that implies about $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.

Shares rose $2.77, or 5.8 per cent, to $50.88 in morning trading.

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