Wal-Mart tops 3Q profit forecasts, narrows full-year outlook

AP News
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Posted: Nov 17, 2015 9:49 AM
Wal-Mart tops 3Q profit forecasts, narrows full-year outlook

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart reported improved customer traffic and an uptick in a key sales figure for the third quarter, even as a stronger dollar pressured its performance overseas.

The world's largest retailer also issued a forecast for the holiday shopping season that largely topped Wall Street expectations, and narrowed its full-year outlook after cutting it in August.

Its shares rose more than 2 percent in morning trading Tuesday.

Wal-Mart has been pressured on a number of fronts this year. The company, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, is facing increasing competition from online retailers like Amazon.com and dollar stores, and its profits have been squeezed by pay raises for workers and a strong U.S. dollar that has dampened sales from overseas.

In the U.S., the company is also trying cleanliness and service. Greg Foran, CEO of the U.S. division, said during a call with reporters Tuesday that customers are telling the company they're seeing improvement in the stores.

During the quarter, the company said sales at stores open at least a year rose 1.5 percent, marking the fifth straight quarterly increase. But the increase was driven by higher traffic, while average spending per visit dipped. This figure is a key gauge of a retailer's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

For the fourth quarter, which includes the key holiday shopping season, Wal-Mart said it expects sales at established locations to rise 1 percent. Foran declined to say how much that would be driven by increased traffic, versus higher spending. But he expressed confidence in the company's holiday plans.

"We're feeling good about what we're pulling together," Foran said.

Sales in Wal-Mart's international segment, meanwhile, fell 11 percent to $29.81 billion. Excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, sales were $34.7 billion.

For the quarter ended Oct. 31, Wal-Mart Store's net income fell 11 percent to $3.3 billion. But its earnings of $1.03 per share topped Wall Street expectations for 97 cents per share, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue slipped to $117.42 billion from $119 billion. On a constant currency basis, revenue was $122.4 billion. Wall Street expected $117.82 billion.

Wal-Mart also narrowed its forecast for full-year earnings to a range of $4.50 to $4.65 after cutting that outlook in August to $4.40 to $4.70 per share.

Analysts expect, on average, $4.50 per share, according to FactSet.

The retailer also said it expects fourth-quarter earnings to range between $1.40 and $1.55 per share. Analysts forecast, on average, $1.42 per share.

Its shares rose $1.69, or 2.9 percent, to $59.56 in morning trading.

Wal-Mart shares have decreased 33 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has stayed nearly flat. The stock has declined 30 percent in the last 12 months.

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Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on WMT at http://www.zacks.com/ap/WMT

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Keywords: Wal-Mart Stores, Earnings Report, Priority Earnings