) to strong buy from market perform.
Analyst Budd Bugatch raised the first-quarter fiscal 2005 and first-quarter fiscal 2006 earnings per share estimates by 1 cent each, to 55 cents and 78 cents, respectively. He cited a series of positive earnings preannouncements from a number of Lowe's suppliers, including Masco, Fortune Brands, Stanley Works, and Black & Decker.
Bugatch raised the 6.8% Lowe's first-quarter same store sales forecast to 7.5%. He says the home-improvement retailer continues to execute crisply, and will open another 140 stores in fiscal 2005 (Jan), growing by about 15%. Bugatch says with a formal confirmation of a succession plan, (COO Robert Niblock was named CEO designate), investors should expect no hiccups in Lowe's execution. He set a $69 target.