Wal-Mart’s Earnings Report Reassures Stocks

Remember last week when the Commerce Department released figures showing that U.S. retail sales fell 1.2% in December from the previous month, the most since 2009. The drop was so big that she Wall Street analysts argued that the data were in error.

Today Was-Mart (WMT) released its sales and earnings for the fourth quarter–and last week’s skeptics cheered. The company reported its best holiday quarter in a decade.  Comparable sales for Walmart stores in the U.S. rose 4.2% in the quarter. That beat analysts estimates by a full percentage point.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 closed the day up 0.15% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was ahead 0.03%.

At Wal-Mart in particular adjusted earnings per share grew 6% and comparable store sales grew 4.2% year over year.

eCommerce sales provided the most positive news, growing by 43%, which was in line with the third quarter’s growth.

For fiscal 2020, which ends in January 2020, Wal-Mart confirmed guidance for 2.5% to 3% comparable sales growth in the United States. Was-Mart called for eCommerce sales to grow by 35%.

But the earnings picture isn’t quite so sunny. Because of investments in technology, shipping, and overseas expansion, adjusted earnings per share will decrease in the low single digits. Part of the earnings lag will result from the costs of the company’s acquisition of Indian eCommerce company Flipkart. Adjusted earnings per share show a mid-single digit increase if you exclude Flipkart.

The shares currently trade a 22 times current earnings. That’s a significant premium to Target (TGT) at 13 times but a discount to Costco (COSTWealth Strength IndexCOST is Extremely Up and trending Up) at 26 times.