NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart extended its streak of strong quarterly gains heading into the holiday season as its low prices attract shoppers looking for deals in a tough economic environment.
The company, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, reported better-than-expected financial results for the period. However, it offered a cautious outlook and said that shoppers pulled back their spending in late October.
Shares fell more than 6%, or $10.74, to $159.91 in early trading Thursday.
The nation’s largest retailer is among the first batch of major U.S. retailers to report quarterly results. Industry analysts are dissecting the data, seeking to shed more light on how consumers are feeling as the holiday approaches.
Shoppers have remained resilient, propped up by a strong labor market and steady wages. That’s confounded economists and Federal Reserve officials and seems at times at odds with the sour sentiments that Americans themselves have expressed in opinion polls. But higher prices for food and other necessities, though easing, as well as higher borrowing costs for homes and cars, are weighing on household budgets.
Americans cut back on spending in October, ending six straight months of gains and pushing retail sales down 0.1%, the U.S. Commerce Department said this week.
Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon said prices for some groceries are falling, such as dairy, chicken and seafood, but he would like to see that happening in the dry grocery category as well. General merchandise prices are also receding, helping the retailer to roll back prices. Deflation will put more pressure on the company to sell more, but that’s good news for shoppers, he said.
“In the U.S., we may be managing through a period of deflation in the months to come and while that would put more unit pressure on us, we welcome it, because it’s better for our customers,” McMillon said.
Macy’s Thursday said third-quarter sales declined with consumers cautious about spending. But sales and profit both topped Wall Street expectations. The department store also raised the top end of its full-year revenue and adjusted profit forecasts.
Target on Wednesday reported a hefty third-quarter profit increase, but revenue slipped more than 4% as customers saddled with broadly higher costs pulled back on spending.
Sales also slid at Home Depot, the nation’s largest home improvement chain, with homeowners postponing larger renovations and also purchases of big-ticket items, like appliances, that are often bought on credit.
Walmart reported that profits were $453 million, or 17 cents per share, for the three-month period ended Oct. 31. That compares with a loss of $1.79 million, or 66 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings per share totaled $1.53.
Revenue rose 5.2% to $160.84 billion, from $152.81 billion in the year-ago period.
Analysts were expecting $1.52 per share on sales of $159.65 billion, according to FactSet estimates.
Comparable store sales — those from established stores and online operating over the past 12 months — rose 4.9% for the Walmart U.S. division for the quarter. They rose 6.4% last quarter. Global e-commerce sales rose 15%.
Walmart now expects annual sales to be up anywhere from 5% to 5.5%. Previously, it anticipated a 4% to 4.5% increase. It expects adjusted earnings per share of $6.40 to $6.48, up from a range of $6.36 to $6.46 per share. Analysts were expecting $6.50 per share on sales of $642.32 billion.
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