[NEW YORK] Wal-Mart Stores, the world's biggest retailer, posted solid third-quarter earnings on Thursday helped by its ability to raise prices in the US market and gains in its small Neighborhood Market stores.
Net income was US$3.71 billion in the quarter that ended October 31, down 0.7 per cent from a year ago.
Earnings of US$1.15 per share were up 0.9 per cent from a year ago and well above the Wall Street consensus of US$1.12.
Total revenue for the big-box retailer surged nearly three per cent higher to US$119.0 billion, missing estimates of US$118.35 billion.
Wal-Mart said negative currency exchange movements deducted US$396 million from sales.
Net sales in the US market, which account for 60 per cent of the company's sales, rose 3.4 per cent to US$70 billion. A 0.7 per cent decline in traffic was offset by an average price rise of 1.2 per cent.
US comparable sales - sales in stores open a year ago - rose 0.5 per cent, the first growth in nearly two years.
Sales were helped by its Neighborhood Market stores, smaller-scale stores aimed at the urban market, where comparable sales jumped about 5.5 per cent.
"We have some things in our favor this fourth quarter, including lower fuel prices in the US and other key markets," said Doug McMillon, Wal-Mart Stores president and chief executive, in a statement.
The company predicted US sales in the fourth quarter would come in between flat and 1.0 per cent growth. A year ago, they fell 0.4 per cent.
Wal-Mart recently announced it was expanding its Black Friday deep-discount sale this month to five days of deals in stores and online.
Sales on Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving Day holiday, traditionally kick off the crucial year-end holiday shopping season for retailers. This year Black Friday falls on November 28.
Wal-Mart narrowed its full-year forecast to between US$4.92 and US$5.02 per share, in part due to the planned closure of underperforming stores in Japan.
Shares in Dow member Wal-Mart soared 2.5 per cent to US$81.15 in pre-market trading.