Lowe's sets aside $5 billion for share buyback

(Reuters) - Lowe's Companies Inc <LOW.N> authorized a $5 billion share repurchase program, about a fifth of its market value, and said it expects to use the full amount over the next two to three years.

The second largest U.S. home improvement chain also set a regular quarterly dividend of 14 cents a share.

Lowe's, which has declared a cash dividend each quarter since going public in 1961, had raised its divided by 27 percent in May.

Last week, the retailer reported weaker-than-expected quarterly sales and cut its fiscal-year outlook for the second time in three months as homeowners put off big renovations in an anemic U.S. economy.

U.S. companies are increasingly using their cash to buy back their own shares, as they bet on a Wall Street rebound. As of August 11, U.S. companies had bought back $305.2 billion in shares this year, eclipsing the $300.7 billion total for all of 2010 and two-and-a-half times the 2009 amount.

Shares of the company, which closed at $19.31 on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, were inactive before the bell.

(Reporting by Mihir Dalal and Jochelle Mendonca in Bangalore; Editing by Viraj Nair)