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BENTONVILLE, AR-High fuel prices are causing Wal-MartStores Inc. considerable pain as gas costs putpressure on consumer spending and increasedistribution expenses for the discounter.Net sales were $76.8 billion, an increase of 10.2%over the second quarter last year, while net incomewas $2.8 billion, an increase of 5.8% from $2.7billion. Earnings per share were up more than 8% to 67cents from 62 cents per share. Analysts had beenexpecting 65 cents per share.

Total US same-store sales for the quarter increased3.5%, which is represented by a 3.6% compincrease for Wal-Mart Stores and a 2.9% compincrease for Sam’s Club.

“I do feel good about the economy, but I do worryabout the cost of oil,” said Wal-Mart President andCEO Lee Scott during the company’s pre-recordedearnings call.

So far, skyrocketing gas prices have cut into thedisposable income of Wal-Mart’s low-to-middle incomecustomers, according to Tom Schoewe, Wal-Mart’s CFO.Moreover, high fuel costs pushed the chain’sdistribution and freight expenses up $30 million and$100 million for utilities. “That will impact ouroperating income,” Schoewe said during the call.

The chain expects gas prices to impact its thirdquarter performance. “Because of the uncertainty ofoil prices our forecast range 55 cents to 59 cents,”Schoewe said. That amount is on the low end of analyst expectations of 57 cents to 62 cents, according to Thomson First Call.

Even though Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported record salesand earnings for the second quarter, the discountgiant’s executive team and Wall Street were less than impressed. “We are not satisfied unless earnings are growing as fast as sales,” Scott said.

During the second quarter, Wal-Mart opened eight newdiscount stores and 25 new Supercenters. At the end ofthe period, the chain had 1,276 stores worldwide.

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