Home Depot (NYSE:HD) today announced its fourth-quarter and fiscal 2012 earnings, along with a significant increase in its dividend, and a new stock repurchase plan.

The company's board of directors approved a 34% increase in its quarterly dividend, raising the payout to $0.39 per share, up from $0.29. This will be the 104th consecutive quarter with Home Depot paying a cash dividend.

In addition, the board of directors has authorized buying back $17 billion worth of shares through fiscal 2015. This would replace any previous authorizations. Since 2002 (through Feb. 3, 2013), the company has returned more than $37.5 billion of cash to shareholders through repurchases, repurchasing approximately 1 billion shares.

These announcements come as Home Depot posted increased fourth-quarter 2012 revenues of $18.2 billion, 13.9% higher than the same period for 2011. That's a comparable-store sales increase of 7%. Net earnings for the quarter were $1 billion, a 29% increase over Q4 2011.

Home Depot's fiscal 2012 sales of $74.8 billion were an increase of 6.2% over fiscal 2011. Comparable-store sales increased 4.6%.

Home Depot's earnings did take a $0.01-a-share hit in Q4 from a $20 million charge associated with store closings in China. For the year, China store closings accounted for a nonrecurring charge of $145 million, or $0.10 a share.

For 2013, the company projects sales growth of approximately 2% and comparable-store sales growth of around 3%. It anticipates opening nine new stores in the year. At the end of the fourth quarter, Home Depot operated a total of 2,256 retail stores.

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