Good Earnings from Lowe’s

Lowe’s Companies (LOW) was up nearly 3% today after reporting fiscal third-quarter EPS of $3.27, vs. $2.73 last year. That was $0.17 better than expectations. U.S. comparable store sales were up 3%, although that was also the case with Home Depot (HD) yesterday.  Lowe’s was dependent on price increases for growth, with the number of transactions lower. Aggressive share buybacks also aided EPS comparisons, with the average share count down 10% year-over-year.

However, the company is not worried about the economic outlook. Management indicated that most of their professional customers anticipate more business next year. Given that the U.S. housing market is dominated by older homes, with the average age of a home over 40 years, Lowe’s should also continue to experience strong consumer demand.

The company now expects EPS of $13.65 to $13.80 in the current fiscal year, up from previous estimates for $13.10 to $13.60. Of course, the key to the stock is what happens to earnings next year. While some caution is warranted given the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. housing market, estimates for $14.30 to $14.50, aided by continued share buybacks, still should be in reach for Lowe’s. LOW is a buy below $215. My target is $260.