MOORESVILLE, N.C. – An improving housing market helped drive net earnings of $585 million for the third quarter for Lowe’s Companies, Inc. The earnings were a 17.3 percent increase over the same time last year.

Improving Housing Market Drives Strong Quarterly Sales at Lowe's Lowe’s, the nation's second-largest home improvement center which sells cabinetry, flooring, lumber and more to professional buyers and individuals, saw sales increase 5.6 percent to $13.7 billion during the quarter, up from $13 billion in the third quarter of 2013. For the first nine months of the fiscal year sales were $43.7 billion, a 4.6 percent increase over the same period a year ago. The company expects an overall increase of 4.5 to 5 percent in sales by the end of the year.

CEO Robert A. Niblock said the company is “cautiously optimistic” about the home improvement landscape.

The strong sales allowed the company to repurchase $900 million of stock in the third quarter and pay $229 million in dividends. Over the course of the year the company has repurchased $2.9 billion of stock, with $597 in dividends.

As of Oct. 31 Lowe’s operated 1,836 home improvement and hardware stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico representing 200.7 million square feet of retail selling space. The company expects to open six more home improvement and four more hardware stores by the end of the year.

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