In the low-interest rate environment over the past several years, new housing developments have been sprouting up all over the country. And with more neighborhoods and road systems comes a growing demand for additional fueling stations. The low rates have been very positive for homebuilders like KB Home (NYSE:KBH) and oil producers like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM). But new homes and gas stations also require pumping systems, and Franklin Electric (NASDAQ:FELE) has consequently seen a nice steady rise to its stock price as well.

Be that as it may, its stock, down over 6% in midday Monday trading, is getting electrocuted today. The reason? Franklin Electric released its third-quarter earnings report after the closing bell on Friday afternoon, and the company did not meet analyst earnings or sales estimates. Specifically, Franklin earned $0.57 per share on $119 million in sales, whereas the Street had been expecting $0.60 and $123 million, respectively.

Sales growth is definitely slowing at Franklin Electric. The company's newly released third-quarter results show year-over-year revenue growth of only 7.9%, whereas its year-over-year sales growth for the first nine months of fiscal 2005 was higher at 9.5%, and its sales growth for all of fiscal 2004 was higher still at 12.5%. Equally worrisome, Franklin's inventory growth is outpacing revenue growth over all of these periods, growing by 15.6% in the first nine months of fiscal 2005.

Despite a tougher sales environment, the company was still able to make improvements to its profit margins. Operating margins in the third quarter were 17% compared with the year-ago level of 15.5%. The company attributed reduced labor costs from its growing operations in Mexico, the Czech Republic, and China as the reason for its increased profitability.

Better margins led to 19% growth in its net income to $0.57 per diluted share. Accounting for its most recent period, its trailing 12-month earnings per diluted share now sits at $1.88. Which means that at the recent price of $41 and change, its stock is now trading at about 21.9 times earnings, which is over 40% higher than its estimated long-term growth rate of 15.3%.

Given the slowdown in sales growth, this stock does not currently offer a compelling buying opportunity. Its price decline today attests to that. Still, don't completely disregard the company. Franklin Electric's healthy balance sheet, position as the leading manufacturer of water pump systems, and pattern of solid operational performance over the past decade all provide reasons to keep tabs on its stock for future buying opportunities.

Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy does not own shares of any companies mentioned.