Big boxes, level playing fields

In the fourth quarter, Home Depot had a field day in its quarterly sales comparisons with rival Lowe's — a 13.9% gain compared with a 5% decline. However, the field wasn't level.

Home Depot had an extra week in its 2012 quarter, while Lowe's was operating with one fewer week. The difference created a nearly $2 billion swing, as the extra week benefited Home Depot to the tune of $1.2 billion, and deflated Lowe's by about $766 million.

Adjusted to uniform 13-week periods, Home Depot still won the day. But as the numbers show, at least the game was respectable.