Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) on Monday said it still expects a 2 percent to 4 percent increase in July sales at U.S. stores open at least a year, and said high gasoline prices (search) continue to hurt customer spending.

On a recorded message updating sales through July 9, the world's biggest retailer said the best-selling categories included food, paper goods and pet supplies.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said the East and Southeast were the strongest regions, and reported an increase in both the number of shoppers and the average amount spent.

Last week, Wal-Mart posted June same-store sales growth of just 2.2 percent, at the low end of its already reduced forecast. The retailer blamed unusually cool weather that it said hurt demand for summer merchandise.

But the disappointing sales performance from Wal-Mart and other retailers left some analysts wondering if weather was truly the culprit, or if the poor showing was a more worrisome sign of a slowdown in consumer spending.

Wal-Mart has long cautioned that steep gasoline prices act as a tax on its customers because higher pump prices leave less cash for people to spend in stores.