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Prudential Cuts Lowe's to Hold

Prudential lowered its investment rating on Lowe's Cos. (LOW) to hold from buy, saying the rate of change at the home improvement retailer appears to be moderating. The company on Monday posted fourth quarter earnings per share of $0.28 vs. $0.18. Analyst Wayne Hood says the company's fourth quarter was impressive, exceeding his consensus estimates. But while he believes the company's strong strong fundamentals remain intact, he says the rate of change appears to be mderating.

Hood cites the company's decelerating quarterly earnings per share growth rate in fiscal year 2003 (Jan) and decelerating annual square footage growth rate. He also notes the increasingly difficult same store comps; decelerating operations margin expansion; the fact that healthy same store sales assumptions are lready embedded into estimates; sales per sq. foot trends are flat; operating expenses are not leveraged in the second half of 2002 and the possible rising interest rates.

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