The Home Depot posted a 71.6% jump in net earnings to $587 million during the fourth quarter, the company announced today. The net earnings came on $15.1 billion in net sales for the quarter, a 3.8% increase over fourth quarter 2009.

The Atlanta-based home improvement giant had an operating income of $1.04 billion on the quarter, an improvement over the $727 million operating income it posted a year earlier.

For the year, the company posted net earnings of $3.3 billion on $68 billion in net sales. The earnings are a 25.4% improvement over 2009. The company also improved operating income by 21.6% to $5.8 billion for fiscal year 2010.

"We completed the rollout of our Rapid Deployment Centers, an important part of our distribution network; we saw year-over-year improvement in customer service ratings; and we continued progress on our merchandising transformation," said chairman and CEO Frank Blake. "Our actions, coupled with an improving economy, resulted in positive sales growth for the year, the first time since 2006."

Average ticket prices improved 2.6% to $51.31 for the quarter, as did big-ticket items, or purchases over $900. Company officials remained apprehensive about the big-ticket improvements, however.

"People remain cautious about making big ticket improvements on their homes," said executive vice president of merchandizing Craig Menear.