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Wal-Mart Posts 1.3% U.S. Comps

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Wal-Mart Stores here said it posted a 1.3% gain in comparable-store sales at its U.S. operations for the third quarter, ending a string of more than two years of negative comps at its core business.

The comp-store gains reflected increases in the average ticket, the company said, partially offset by a decline in traffic. Comp-store traffic improved 160 basis points over the second quarter, however.

In a prerecorded recording for analysts and investors on Tuesday, the company said its food business had "positive traffic trends throughout the quarter" and posted comps in the mid-single digits.

"Rising food costs continue to be a major concern for customers," said Bill Simon (pictured), Walmart U.S. president and chief executive officer. "We hear from some shoppers that they believe it will be more difficult than ever to afford holiday meals for their families."

Shoppers have been trading down or trading out of some categories completely, he said.

Grocery cost inflation was about 4% in the quarter, although Wal-Mart said it absorbed some of the increase to minimize the impact on shelf prices.

Walmart U.S. saw operating income rise 5.1% vs. a year ago, to $4.6 billion, while sales were up 2.7%, to $63.8 billion.

For the company overall, including Sam's Club and Walmart International, consolidated net income was down 2.7%, to $3.49 billion, on a revenue gain of 8.1%, to $110.2 billion.