Earnings: Wal-Mart | Staples | Home Depot | Target |

Wal-Mart Earnings Up 11.5 Percent

(AP) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world's largest retailer, said Tuesday that third-quarter earnings rose 11.5 percent, in line with expectations, and slightly lowered guidance for the year.

For the quarter ended Oct. 31, the company posted net income of $2.65 billion, or 63 cents per share, compared with $2.37 billion, or 57 cents per share, a year earlier.

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Net sales totaled $83.5 billion, an increase of 12 percent from $74.6 billion the last third quarter.

Excluding income from operations in Germany and South Korea that it has sold, Wal-Mart's profit amounted to 62 cents a share. Wall Street expected a profit from continuing operations of 59 cents per share, the average estimate of 21 analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial, on projected sales of $84.48 billion.

Wal-Mart said it expects earnings per share from continuing operations for the fourth quarter to be between 88 cents and 92 cents, resulting in a full-year forecast for earnings per share of $2.85 to $2.89.

In August, Wal-Mart had forecast full-year earnings per share between $2.88 and $2.95.

"Although sales in the U.S. were softer than we hoped for in the third quarter, there are real opportunities in the fourth quarter to build on the momentum of the aggressive pricing strategy we have implemented in our stores for the holiday season," Chief Executive Lee Scott said in a statement.

"This season, no one will doubt Wal-Mart's leadership on price and value," Scott said.

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Staples Profit Rises On Back-to-School Sales

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Staples Inc. (SPLS), the No. 1 office supplies retailer, posted a higher quarterly profit Tuesday, helped by strong back-to-school sales.

Third-quarter net income rose to $289.9 million, or 39 cents a share, from $224.4 million, or 30 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, profit grew 18 percent to $265 million, or 36 cents per share, the company said. On that basis, analysts, on average, were expecting 35 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company said total sales rose to $4.8 billion from $4.2 billion, beating the average analyst forecast of $4.7 billion.

Staples said sales rose 4 percent at North American retail stores open at least a year, boosted by strong sales of core office supplies, ink and toner products and copy and print services.

Staples said last month that it expects to have "Staples aisles" in about 2,400 supermarkets by the end of 2007 as it looks to increase its appeal to individual consumers after focusing more on small business owners.

Looking ahead, Staples said it expects full-year 2007 earnings to be in the range of $1.43 to $1.49 per share, excluding items, helped by 10 percent to 15 percent sales growth.

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Home Depot Misses Views, Cut Forecast

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Home Depot Inc. (HD) Tuesday reported lower third-quarter profit that missed Wall Street estimates and sharply cut its forecast for earnings and sales growth this year as the U.S. housing slowdown crimps spending.

Earnings fell to $1.49 billion, or 73 cents a share, in the third quarter that ended on Oct. 29, from $1.54 billion, or 72 cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average expected profit of 75 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Total sales rose 11.3 percent to $23.1 billion, falling short of the analysts' average estimate of $23.3 billion. Sales at stores open at least a year, an important retail measure, fell 5.1 percent.

In a statement, Home Depot said a slowing U.S. economy, declining home sales and prices, and fewer refinancings had hurt its retail division, where total sales rose just 1.1 percent to $19.7 billion.

In the Home Depot Supply segment that caters to home builders and other contractors, sales more than doubled to $3.5 billion, helped by acquisitions.

Atlanta-based Home Depot and rival Lowe's Cos. (LOW) have cut their outlooks this year as higher borrowing costs and weaker U.S. home sales led consumers to back away from big-ticket purchases.

Home Depot sharply pared its growth forecast, saying it now expected per-share profit to rise 4 percent to 5 percent for the current fiscal year, while sales would increase about 12 percent.

In August, Home Depot had said full-year results would come in at the low end of projections of a 10 percent to 14 percent increase in per-share earnings and a 14 percent to 17 percent rise in sales.

Home Depot shares fell 24 cents to $36.40 in Monday trading, while Lowe's shed 17 cents to $29. Home Depot's stock has fallen about 11 percent this year, while Lowe's is off 13 percent.

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Target Beats Expectations On Strong Sales

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Target Corp. (TGT) reported a bigger-than-expected 16 percent rise in quarterly profit Tuesday, boosted by strong sales and hefty returns from its credit cards.

The discount retailer, which competes with larger rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc., earned $506 million, or 59 cents per share, in the third quarter ended on Oct. 28, up from $435 million, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average expected 55 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Target's shares were up less than 1 percent after rising as much as 2 percent in early trading.

Quarterly revenue rose 11.2 percent to $13.57 billion, with sales at stores open at least a year -- a key retail measure known as same-store sales -- up 4.6 percent.

Earlier Tuesday, Wal-Mart posted an 11.5 percent increase in profit, with U.S. same-store sales up 1.5 percent.

Target's sales growth has outpaced Wal-Mart's in recent quarters, in part because Target caters to wealthier shoppers who are less sensitive to economic factors such as rising energy costs.

Target said its credit card business had contributed $176 million to earnings before taxes, up 63 percent from a year earlier. The retailer issues its owns Target and Target Visa credit cards, which have been big profit drivers.

Shares of Target were up 31 cents, or 0.54 percent, at $58.07 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, while shares of Wal-Mart were up 2.7 percent to $47.58.

Target shares, which are up about 5 percent for the year to date, trade at 16.3 times analysts' profit forecasts for next year, compared with a multiple of 14.4 for Wal-Mart.