Lowe's (NYSE:LOW), the second-largest home improvement retailer behind Home Depot (NYSE:HD), posted strong third-quarter results today. The company looks as solid as a brick house, with substantial gains in total and same-store sales, and a big jump in earnings. Its balance sheet also sparkles, and the cash flow statement isn't too shabby either.

Total revenues climbed 23.5% to $7.92 billion, and same-store sales improved by an impressive 12.4%. Net income increased 33.3% to $452 million. On a per share basis, Lowe's earned $0.56, 30.2% ahead of last year's $0.43.

Lowe's stores in all geographic parts of the country performed well in the quarter. The retailer's push into urban markets like New York City and Chicago also helped results, as did tax rebate spending and continued inflows from mortgage refinancing.

Down on the balance sheet, Lowe's cash was 5.7% lower than last year, sitting at about $1.3 billion. Inventories rose 20.6%, below the company's revenue growth. And accounts receivables were up only 11%. Lowe's long-term debt was down slightly. These are all indications that Lowe's is managing its business tightly, and while it'd be nice to see an increase in cash, it's not enough of a change to be worrisome.

The company continues its positive trend of funding its expansion through cash from operations. Capital expenditures ate up most of operating cash flow through the first nine months of the year, but that's better than Lowe's taking on more debt to pay for its growth.

Home Depot reports its third-quarter earnings tomorrow, and Lowe's has set expectations high with its stellar report. We'll cover Home Depot's results once they come out on Tuesday morning, so check back then to see if it was able to match Lowe's exceptional growth.

Are Lowe's great results an indicator of more strength to come, or were they just an anomaly? Talk about it on the Lowe's discussion board.