Walmart attracts more shoppers seeking to cut spending in Q3, but muted expectations spook investors

NEW YORK — 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. It upped its annual outlook, though it was slightly below what analysts expected. Shares fell nearly 3% in premarket trading.

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, Federal Reserve officials and seems at times at odds with the sour sentiments that Americans themselves have expressed in opinion polls. But higher prices on food and other necessities, though easing, as well as higher borrowing costs for homes and cars, continue to weigh on household budgets.

That has begun to appear in retail sales numbers.

Americans cut back on retail spending in October ending six straight months of gains and pushing retail sales down 0.1%, the U.S. Commerce Department said this week.

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 results were $1.53 per share.

Revenue rose 6.1% to $160.84 billion, from $152.81 billion in the year-ago period.

Analysts were expecting $1.52 per share on sales of $159.651 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%.

The company expects annual sales to be up anywhere from 5% to 5.5%. It expects adjusted earnings per share of $6.40 to $6.48. Analysts were expecting $6.50 per share on sales of $642.32 billion.

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