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Wal-Mart Earnings Up, But Lowers Guidance

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer and a benchmark for the U.S. economy, reported higher quarterly profit and said earnings may trail analysts' estimates after record gasoline prices buffeted consumers.

Sales at stores open at least a year may be unchanged in the three months through July, the retailer said today. Wal- Mart fell $1.01, or 1.7 percent, to $57.01 at 10:22 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Chief Executive Officer H. Lee Scott ordered discounts as deep as 30 percent to spur demand for medicines, groceries and consumer electronics among middle-income Americans squeezed by higher expenses. Wal-Mart is also cashing tax-rebate checks for free to lure customers from Target Corp. and Kroger Co.

"There are still uncertainties about the rest of the year,'' Scott said today on a recorded call. "The economy is playing a critical factor in 2008. Customers are focusing on food and daily-use items. Small businesses are under pressure.''

Net income increased 6.9 percent to $3.02 billion, or 76 cents a share, from $2.83 billion, or 68 cents, a year earlier, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said in a statement. Profit beat estimates by 1 cent. Revenue for the three months through April 30 rose 10 percent to $95.3 billion.

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