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Investors looking for companies that may benefit from the housing recovery should take a close look at home improvement store chains, Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and Lowe's (NYSE:LOW). In the last year, the stocks of the two companies have been up sharply, with Home Depot up close to 70% and Lowe's close 40%. But which stock is a better bet for the future?

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Home Depot. Though the company commands a higher valuation than Lowe's in terms of forward PE, it beats Lowe's in terms of operating margins, and revenue and earnings growth, which reflect four areas of strength:

First-Mover Advantage. A pioneer in the home improvement area, Home Depot occupies prime locations that offer customer convenience.

Scale: Home Depot is 1.5 times larger than Lowe's with $71.38 billion in revenues versus $51.8 billion.

Bundling: Home Depot has been a pioneer in bundling products with services, making it easier for customers to find out the materials they need for DIY projects or hire professionals for DIFM projects.

Culture: From its early days, Home Depot has fostered a corporate culture that of the "inverted pyramid, " which puts customers and sales associates first.

Home Depot and Lows Financials

Company

Home Depot

Lowe's

Forward PE

16.90*

13.53**

Operating Margin

10%

7.39%

Quarterly Earnings Growth

12.40%

-10%

Quarterly Revenue Growth

1.70%

-2%

Dividend

2%

2.30

*January 29, 2014

**February 3, 2014

Source: Yahoo. Finance.com

Source: Home Depot Or Lowe's?