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Wal-Mart Knows How to Beat the Street


Largest retailer once again exceeds expectations.


Minyan Morning Memo

One to watch: I'll start with the stock that needs no introduction. Wal-Mart (WMT), the largest retailer and indeed private employer on Earth, hasn't lost its ability to beat the Street. Earnings of $0.88 a share exceeded expectations, though same store sales slipped. Its shares, which were the Dow's best performer in '08, are up today but underwater this year and saturation in America is clearly a concern. But an image makeover has made it greener if not leaner and most analysts rate it a buy. The company has huge expansion opportunities with Latin America's emerging consumer class and its cultural cachet takes a backseat to no one. Except Oprah.

What just happened: Stocks snapped a two day slide with all three major averages up over one percent after an optimistic policy statement from the Fed. Investors were in good hands with Allstate (ALL), as the insurer gained 6.3% on an upgrade at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. Macy's (M) rose 6% as its quarterly reported kicked off retail earnings season. Though the bulls reigned on Wall Street there was mainly pain in Spain on that score, budget cuts hitting home in the country with Europe's longest jobless lines. And Nestlé announced its top two first half sellers were Nespresso and... Dog Chow. Can caffeine for canines be far behind?

What's happening: Asia ended up on an impressive rebound in Hong Kong. Europe is in positive territory amid better than anticipated French and German GDP. Here at home stocks have opened higher. Bank of America (BAC) is showing strength after Paulson purchased 168 million shares in the second quarter (hedge fund manager John not ex Treasury Secretary Hank, I hasten to add).

See Two Ways: John Paulson Ups the Ante for more.

What will happen: A battery of bearish economic data is out this morning. Foreclosure filings rose 7% to a record rate last month, RealtyTrac reported. Initial unemployment claims surprisingly headed higher. The disappointing 0.1% decline in July retail sales also defied predictions. We'll be learning about earnings from Anheuser-Busch (BUD), Autodesk (ADSK), Blockbuster (BBI), DeVry (DV), Dr. Pepper Snapple (DPS), Estée Lauder (EL), Kohl's Corp (KSS), Nordstrom (JWN), Urban Outfitters (URBN) and Watson Wyatt Worldwide (WW).

Happenstance: August is invariably silly season in the media, when lighter fare prevails. That the Middle East is currently more concerned with million dollar mermaids than military maneuvers is surely a hopeful sign in a troubled region.

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