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(Corrects headline, first sentence to show total profit declined)
Sept 7 (Reuters) - Kroger Co, the biggest U.S. supermarket operator, reported a slightly lower quarterly profit on Friday and raised its fiscal year forecast slightly, as loyal customers shopped at its stores and it kept a tight lid on costs.
The Cincinnati-based operator of Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Smith's, Food 4 Less and other stores earned $279.1 million, or 51 cents per share, in the second quarter ended Aug. 11. A year earlier, its net profit was $280.8 million, or 46 cents per share.
Sales, including fuel, rose 3.9 percent to $21.73 billion, missing analysts' estimate of $21.9 billion.
Kroger said it now expects to earn $2.35 per share to $2.42 per share this fiscal year. Its prior forecast was $2.33 to $2.40. (Reporting By Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles and Jessica Wohl in Chicago; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)