Finally, a streak comes to an end!

It was almost painful to watch. Quarter after quarter of negative comparable-store-sales figures emanating from Atlanta and Mooresville in a period of negativity that extended for more than three years.

The negative-comps streak officially ended last month, when the two biggest players in home improvement retailing both posted positive comps for the first time since late 2005 (See chart). The reversal is clearly good news not only for Home Depot and Lowe’s, but also for the home improvement industry in general.

According to Lowe’s president Larry Stone, the first quarter of 2010 produced other positive signals. “We saw signs consumers are increasingly willing to spend on big ticket products,” he said, pointing to 1% comps for tickets greater than $500.

At Home Depot, 37 out of the top 40 U.S. markets comped positively in the first quarter. All departments posted positive comps, with the highest performances in the garden, lumber, paint, electrical and lighting aisles, said executive VP Craig Menear.