10:45am (EST)

Although Lowe’s (LOW, $19.37, up $0.92) reported a 20% drop in profits, they managed to beat Wall Street’s estimates this morning and raised its full-year outlook. The company said that they are seeing an improvement in consumer confidence while they believe housing is showing signs of a bottoming.

Customers are still holding back on big ticket items but the news was a relief for the market.

Lowe’s reported earnings of $476 million, or $0.32 a share, versus $607 million, or $0.41 a share, in the year ago period. Wall Street was expecting a profit of $0.25 a share. For the current quarter, Lowe’s said it expects to earn $0.51-$0.55 a share and $1.13-$1.25 for all of 2009. Lowe’s had previously expected earnings of $1.04-$1.20 a share.

Pretty good news. Home Depot (HD, $25.47, up $1.07) is also getting a lift and they report earnings on Tuesday. Even more impressive is the fact that Lowe’s still plans to open 60 to 70 stores this year.

The Dow is back over 8,400 as it is currently enjoying a triple-digit gain in just a little over an hour into trading.

Rick Rouse