LOS ANGELES -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s first-quarter profit rose more than expected, but an important measure of U.S. sales fell again and the discount giant issued a muted outlook for the second quarter.
For the three months ended April 30, profit at the world's largest retailer totaled $3.32 billion, or 88 cents a share, a 10 percent increase from $3.02 billion, or 77 cents, in the year-earlier quarter.
But sales at U.S. stores open at least a year -- known as same-store sales and considered an important measure of a retailer's health because it excludes the effect of store openings and closings -- fell 1.4 percent because of soft customer traffic. It marked the fourth quarter in a row of same-store sales declines for the Bentonville, Ark., company.
"Our customers, particularly in the United States, are still concerned about their personal finances and unemployment as well as higher fuel prices," Chief Executive Mike Duke said.
The discounter said it expected U.S. same-store sales, excluding fuel, to be down 2 percent to up 1 percent for the current quarter ending July 30.
At Sam's Club, the company estimated that second-quarter same-stores sales, also excluding fuel, would be flat, plus or minus one percentage point.
Total first-quarter sales rose 6 percent to $99.1 billion.
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