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Wal-Mart earns $3.4 billion, raises forecast

By Aaron Smith, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Wal-Mart Stores posted third-quarter profit of $3.4 billion and raised its full-year guidance Tuesday, in a closely watched report that could shed some light on consumer spending.

Wal-Mart reported earnings per share of 95 cents for the third quarter, compared to an adjusted 82 cents from the year-earlier quarter. After taking into account a 5-cent-per-share tax benefit, the results matched the consensus forecast of 90 cents per share from analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Just ten days ahead of the kickoff to the holiday season, the world's largest retailer upped its full-year forecast to a range of $4.08 per share to $4.12. That's compared to its previous range of $3.95 per share to $4.05.

Despite that, Wal-Mart's revenue fell short of expectations. The retailer reported $101.2 billion in revenue for the third quarter, an increase of more than 2% from $98.7 billion in the year-earlier quarter. But it was less than the consensus forecast of $102.2 billion.

Wal-Mart expects to do well this holiday season, which it plans to kick off with electronics deals on Black Friday.

The U.S. division of Wal-Mart said it expects same-store sales to range from a decline of 1% to an increase of 2% for the fourth quarter, an improvement from last year's 2% decline.

But Brian Sozzi, analyst for Wall Street Strategies, said that Wal-Mart's forecast for same-store sales really isn't that strong. He said the company will face strong holiday competition from retailers like Target (TGT, Fortune 500), which can take on Wal-Mart's low prices with its price-match policy.

Wal-Mart's (WMT, Fortune 500) stock rose slightly in pre-market trading, even as futures overall fell.

Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke said the company expanded its retail space by nearly 10 million square feet during the quarter, with more than a third of the expansion occurring in the international market.

"Our international business continues to deliver impressive results, with sales up more than 9%," said Duke. But U.S. sales were flat, dragging down company-wide sales growth to 2.6% for the quarter. To top of page

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