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Lowe's sets aside $5B for share buyback

Lowe's Companies Inc. (LOW-N) put aside $5 billion US to buyback its shares over the next two to three years, joining a string of companies digging into their cash reserves to shore up their stocks in a weak economy.

Lowe's is the second largest U.S. home improvement chain behind Home Depot Inc. (HD-N). Lowe's shares rose Monday, but it is unclear if the repurchase, which represents about a fifth of Lowe's current market value, will prop up a stock that has fallen 23 percent this year.

The company's stock has taken a hit as many U.S. shoppers have stayed away from expensive renovations in light of falling housing prices and homebuilder sentiment remained stuck near historic lows in August.

Home Depot's announcement of a $1 billion share repurchase in late March initially boosted the stock, but it is down 15 percent since as home improvement chains found it harder to sell their wares to homeowners.

Lowe's, which has declared a cash dividend each quarter since going public in 1961, also set a regular quarterly dividend of 14 cents a share. It raised its divided by 27 percent in May.

Last week, the retailer reported weaker-than-expected quarterly sales and cut its fiscal-year outlook for the second time in three months as homeowners put off big renovations in an anemic U.S. economy.

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