Wal-Mart earnings fall, but online sales surge

Wal-Mart says fourth-quarter earnings fell nearly 18 percent, hurt by its investments in e-commerce and stores.

But the world's largest retailer saw its U.S. business accelerate during the period that covers the holiday shopping season.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said Tuesday it earned $3.76 billion, or $1.22 per share in the three months ended Jan. 31. That compares with $4.57 billion, or $1.43 per share, a year ago.

Excluding certain items, earnings per share were $1.30. Sales excluding memberships fee rose 0.8 percent to $129.75 billion.

Analysts had expected $1.28 per share on revenue of $131.13 billion, according to FactSet. Wal-Mart says a key revenue metric rose 1.8 percent at its U.S. namesake business. E-commerce sales surged 29 percent.

Wal-Mart has been aiming to improve its operations amid stronger competition.