The improvement in EPS results from strong sales growth in both the Mohawk and Dal-Tile segments, improved manufacturing efficiencies, higher absorption of manufacturing fixed costs, better leverage of selling, general and administrative costs and the Lees Carpet acquisition, offset by higher raw material and energy costs. Net sales for the quarter increased 17 percent to $1,531,151,000 compared to $1,303,166,000 for the third quarter of 2003. The sales increase was primarily due to organic growth in both segments and the Lees acquisition, which positively impacted sales by 5 percent. The Mohawk segment net sales of $1,130,922,000 in the third quarter of 2004 increased 17 percent from $967,405,000 due to growth in all products as a result of economic conditions and the Lees acquisition. The Dal-Tile segment net sales of $400,229,000 in the third quarter of 2004 grew 19 percent from $335,761,000 primarily from internal growth.
EPS for the first nine months of 2004 was $3.94 (27 percent above last year) and net earnings were $266,152,000 (28 percent above last year) compared to $3.10 EPS and $208,007,000 in net earnings for the first nine months of 2003. This increase in EPS and earnings is attributable to strong sales growth, better leverage of selling, general and administrative costs and the Lees acquisition, offset by higher raw material and energy costs. Net sales for the first nine months of 2004 were $4,409,327,000 representing a 21% increase from 2003 sales of $3,635,062,000. The sales increase resulted from strong organic growth, the acquisition of Lees and four additional days in the first quarter of 2004. The company's fiscal calendar for 2004 when compared to 2003, increased by four days in the first quarter which added approximately 2 percent to sales in the first nine months of 2004.