Profits at Lowe's Cos. (NYSE: LOW), the nation's second-largest home improvement retailer, rose more than expected in the just-ended quarter as a warmer-than-usual winter, an incipient recovery in the U.S. housing sector and consumer willingness to resume credit card use boosted sales.

Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) reported fiscal fourth-quarter net income of $322 million, or 26 cents per share, a jump of 11 percent from earnings of $285 million, or 21 cents per share, a year ago, the Mooresville, N.C., company said Monday. The bottom line was aided by the fact this year's fourth-quarter included an additional week of selling.

Sales for the quarter ended Feb. 3, 2012, increased 11 percent to $11.6 billion from $10.5 billion in the same period a year ago. 

Still, the results were better than expected. Wall Street analysts following the company had estimated it would report earnings of 24 cents a share, according to Reuters. Revenue at Lowe's was $11.63 billion for the quarter, also besting analysts' predictions $11.34 billion.

We delivered solid results for the quarter, including earnings per share that exceeded our guidance, Robert A. Niblock, Lowe's chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement.

For the full fiscal year, net earnings decreased 8.5 percent to $1.8 billion from the prior fiscal year, while diluted earnings per share increased 0.7 percent to $1.43 from $1.42. Sales were $50.2 billion, a 2.9 percent increase over the prior fiscal year. 

Wall Street investors were snapping up shares of the company on the positive news.

Shares rose 58 cents, or 2.2 percent to an intraday high of $27.75.