Wal-Mart shares rise after sales beat estimates

NEW YORK Thu Feb 5, 2009 9:46am EST

A customer shops at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas June 5, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

A customer shops at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas June 5, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) reported a better-than-expected 2.1 percent rise in January sales at U.S. stores open at least a year, driven by demand for food, and said it would no longer provide monthly sales forecasts.

Instead, the world's biggest retailer said on Thursday that it would give forecasts on a 13-week basis, four times a year.

"We believe this guidance is a more appropriate measure for our investors, particularly in volatile times when consumer swings are more difficult to predict," Chief Financial Officer Tom Schoewe said in a statement.

The company's shares rose 2.1 percent to $47.38 in premarket trading from a close of $46.42 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Analysts on average were expecting Wal-Mart's same-store sales to rise 1.1 percent, according to Reuters Estimates, while the company had forecast sales to be flat to up 2 percent.

The world's biggest retailer said net sales in the month rose almost 2 percent to $27.74 billion.

Wal-Mart said that at its U.S. discount stores, sales were led by "very solid increases" in grocery, as well as health and wellness. Demand was strong for flat-panel TVs, frozen meals and vegetables, and items for baking and cooking.

"Clearly, we believe customers are becoming more self-reliant, eating and entertaining at home, and for instance even performing their own basic vehicle maintenance," the company said on a recorded call.

Same-store sales at Wal-Mart's namesake U.S. discount stores rose 2.1 percent, while they advanced 2.4 percent at its Sam's Club warehouse chain.

For the period from January 31 through May 1, Wal-Mart expects U.S. comparable sales, excluding fuel, to increase between 1 and 3 percent. It said the shift of Easter from March to April this year would affect same-store sales results for those months.

(Reporting by Nicole Maestri; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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