Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) is looking good. The nation's second-largest home-improvement retailer's second quarter would impress even Bob Vila.

Sales spiked 17.2% to $8.77 billion from $7.49 billion. Net income jumped by 27.8% to $597 million, while earnings per share rocketed from $0.59 to $0.75. Analysts had expected $0.69.

A wet spring and soggy first-quarter same-store sales tempered investor enthusiasm for Lowe's back in May. However, things were different today, with Lowe's putting up a strong 6.9% comparable store gain for the quarter.

Lowe's also enjoyed better margins this quarter. Gross margins grew to 30.17% from 29.41%, and net margins improved to 6.80% from 6.24%.

Over on the balance sheet, long-term debt declined slightly. Accounts receivables also were down a hair, while inventory levels increased in line with sales. All are signs that Lowe's is running a clean store, er, ship.

The good news carried over to the cash flow statement, as Lowe's generated more cash from operations during the first six months of its fiscal year than it did last year. This resulted in less free cash flow, though, due to the company's expansion. Despite the decline in free cash flow, the fact that Lowe's is funding its capital expenditures internally deserves praise.

For the coming quarter, Lowe's is hoping to earn $0.50-$0.51 per share, vs. the $0.43 it earned in the third quarter last year. That represents earnings growth of about 16%-18%.

Arch rival Home Depot (NYSE:HD) reports its second-quarter results tomorrow. Will it also nail its quarter? Come back tomorrow, when we'll run down the results. Until then, chew on Bill Mann's interesting Take on the home-improvement market.