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Walmart raises sales outlook

Walmart offered a dose of optimism amid growing concerns over weakening economic growth by raising its annual outlook after a strong second quarter.

Sales at stores opened at least a year rose 2.8%, its 20th consecutive quarter in the right direction as the world's largest retailer continues to expand its grocery delivery services. U.S. online sales increased 37%.

Walmart's chief financial officer Brett Biggs told reporters on a call that the consumers' financial health remains "solid."

Walmart's latest earnings report shows it has been able to keep prices low even as its costs are rising and it's pushing its online operations aggressively to counter Amazon.com. For example, the discounter offered limited free next day delivery in May with an order of at least $35 and plans to expand that service nationwide this year.

During a call with reporters Thursday, Biggs said that it has an advantage over other retailers because it can spread price increase across a wide breadth of items. It says it's considering increases on an item by item basis.

Walmart reported quarterly profit of $3.61 billion, or $1.26 per share, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier. Per-share earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, were $1.27. That's a nickel better than Wall Street had expected, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue was $130.38 billion.

 

Whistleblower accuses GE of misleading investors

A whistleblower who warned regulators about Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme is now accusing General Electric of misleading investors, sending the company's stock down 11.3% Thursday.

Investigator Harry Markopolos accused GE on Thursday of engaging in accounting fraud worth $38 billion, saying the company is hiding massive losses and heading for bankruptcy.

The issues he outlined lie primarily in GE's troubled Capital unit, a financial services division often seen as a black hole in the company. The Capital unit holds commercial and personal loans, as well as insurance policies that include coverage of long-term care.

In his report, Markopolos suggests that an accounting rule change for insurance liabilities and a significant lack of reserves to cover long-term care liabilities will push GE to take a $29 billion hit.

 

EPA reverses OK for poison traps

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday reversed its preliminary decision allowing continued use of deadly sodium cyanide traps, blamed for injuring people and pets as well as their intended targets of coyotes and other predators.

EPA head Andrew Wheeler said in a statement he had decided the agency needed to do more analysis and consulting regarding the so-called M-44 traps, devices embedded in the ground that look like lawn sprinklers but spray cyanide when triggered by animals attracted by bait.

"I look forward to continuing this dialogue to ensure U.S. livestock remain well-protected from dangerous predators while simultaneously minimizing off-target impacts on both humans and non-predatory animals," Wheeler said.

Environmental groups had blasted the agency's preliminary decision last week reauthorizing the cyanide traps, saying they were impossible to use safely.

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