Home Depot Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly results as it benefited from its efforts to improve efficiency, prompting the top home improvement chain to forecast a fiscal-year profit above Wall Street estimates.

The news came a day after smaller rival Lowe's Cos reported better-than-expected results and said sales would improve in 2010 as demand for remodeling projects picks up.

Home Depot's net income was $342 million, or 20 cents a share, in the fourth quarter ended on January 31, compared with a year-earlier loss of $54 million, or 3 cents a share.

Excluding items, the profit was 24 cents a share, beating the analysts' average forecast of 17 cents.

Sales fell 0.3 percent to $14.57 billion, but exceeded expectations of $14.07 billion.

Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year fell 1.1 percent. Total company comparable-store sales rose 1.2 percent.

The company said it sees both total sales and same-store sales rising about 2.5 percent in the current fiscal year. It sees net earnings from continuing operations up about 15.5 percent to $1.79 a share in the period.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of $1.55 a share on a comparable basis.

(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)