Additionally, the fourth quarter of 2003 had one additional day when compared to 2002 which added approximately 2 percent to the sales growth.
The Mohawk segment net sales of $1,034,256,000 in the fourth quarter of 2003 were up 12 percent from $919,951,000 due to improving sales across all product categories as well as acquisitions. The Dal-Tile segment net sales of $335,735,000 in the fourth quarter of 2003 grew 18 percent from $283,525,000 primarily due to internal growth.
Net earnings for the year 2003 were $310,149,000 (9 percent above last year), or $4.62 in EPS (5 percent above last year), compared to $284,489,000 in net earnings, or $4.39 in EPS, for the year 2002. This improvement in net earnings is primarily attributable to sales growth and operating earnings growth in the second half of 2003 as well as the acquisition of Dal-Tile during the first quarter of 2002. Net sales for the year 2003 increased 11% to $5,005,053,000 from $4,522,336,000. This sales increase resulted primarily from internal growth in both the Mohawk and Dal-Tile segments, the acquisition of Dal-Tile in 2002 and three acquisitions in 2003.
The earnings for the fourth quarter of 2002 included a charge of $10,700,000 related to the change in classification of an interest rate hedge on the company's variable rate debt.
The company believes the economy will continue to improve and our revenue growth should continue to outpace the prior years. However, high oil and natural gas prices will continue to put pressure on Mohawk's cost structure. Additionally, we are adjusting our fiscal calendar this year resulting in the first quarter of 2004 having four additional days and the fourth quarter of 2004 having four fewer days when compared to 2003. This adjustment will impact revenues in the first quarter and fourth quarter sales of 2004 when compared to 2003 by approximately 6%. After considering these factors, the first quarter of 2004 earnings forecast range is from $0.95 to $1.02 EPS.