Wal-Mart cuts earnings forecast

by Keith Nunes
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BENTONVILLE, ARK. — Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has cut its fourth-quarter earnings guidance to 91c to 94c per share from $1.03 to $1.07 due to higher-than-expected costs and the difficult economic environment.

"The current economy remains challenging for all businesses, and retailers have already seen customers pull back on discretionary spending," said Tom Schoewe, executive vice-president and chief financial officer. "Consumers are very focused on value and necessities."

The earnings announcement coincided with the issuance of the retailer’s December sales, which were flat for the five weeks ended Jan. 2. Total company sales for the period were $46,509 million compared with $46,574 million for the five-week period that ended Jan. 4, 2008.

Of the company’s three divisions — Wal-Mart U.S., Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart International — only the U.S. division experienced increased sales during the five-week period. The company said grocery and health and wellness were the primary sales drivers for Wal-Mart U.S. during that period.

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