Wal-Mart reports jump in profit

Net income climbs nearly 10 percent during critical holiday quarter; sales rise but fall short of Wall Street's estimates.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, on Tuesday reported a jump in earnings during its key holiday quarter, topping analysts' estimates.

Shares of Wal-Mart (up $1.02 to $49.50, Charts) jumped more than 2 percent in active trade.

Sales also climbed during the company's fiscal fourth quarter, but fell short of Wall Street's expectations.

The company said net income rose to $3.94 billion in the quarter ended Jan. 31, up almost 10 percent from $3.59 billion in the period a year earlier.

Earnings from continuing operations rose to 95 cents a share, up from 87 cents a share in the same period a year ago.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had expected earnings of 90 cents a share.

The quarterly results cover the crucial holiday shopping season, which retailers rely on to generate a bulk of their sales and profit.

Wal-Mart's revenue jumped nearly 11 percent during the quarter to $98.09 billion as it aggressively slashed prices during the holiday season.

But the sales results fell below analysts' forecasts for revenue of $99.6 billion.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said its expects earnings from continuing operations for the current period to range between 68 cents and 71 cents a share, in line with analysts' forecast range of 65 cents to 70 cents a share.

The company said it expects U.S. same-store sales - a key metric in the retail industry - to rise 1 to 3 percent during the same period.

President and Chief Executive H. Lee Scott Jr. also said the company expects more international growth in the year ahead. "This year expect to hear more from Wal-Mart about where we are going in emerging markets like India and China," Scott said in a conference call.

Analysts also expect growth at Wal-mart competitor Costco Wholesale Corp. (Charts), which saw shares edge up in morning trade. There also was good news Tuesday for Target Corp. (Charts), which said its sales would meet forecasts and also saw its shares take an early rise of about a half-percent.

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