ATLANTA - The Home Depot Inc. doesn't know if stimulus checks making their way to potential customers are enough to improve its fortunes this year, the company said yesterday as it reported a 66 percent drop in first-quarter profit.

The home-improvement chain did not give detailed guidance for the remainder of fiscal 2008, saying only that it was "more comfortable" with the low end of its previous expectations.

Its shares fell $1.50, or 5.20 percent, to $27.37.

The challenge for Home Depot, like its smaller rival Lowe's Cos. Inc., is a slumping U.S. housing market.

Home Depot's bottom line reflects the concern of many Americans about the declining value of homes and the rising cost of filling up a gas tank.

Home Depot's first-quarter earnings results, excluding a charge related to previously announced store closings and the shrinking of store growth plans, beat Wall Street expectations despite a decline in overall sales and sales at stores open at least a year.

The Atlanta company said it earned $356 million, or 21 cents a share, in the three months ended May 4, compared with a profit of $1.05 billion, or 53 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding the onetime charge, Home Depot said it earned $697 million, or 41 cents a share.

Analysts were expecting earnings of 37 cents a share excluding onetime items.

Home Depot said revenue in the quarter fell 3.4 percent to $17.91 billion, compared with $18.55 billion recorded a year earlier.