Wal-Mart Stores: Is it really "the worst start to a month I have seen in my seven years with the company," as Jerry Murray, Wal-Mart's vice president of finance and logistics, is reported to have said in an email?
Whether the Wal-Mart emails were accurate or not, it does reflect a concern: that retail sales have been tougher thanks in part to the two percent payroll tax increase.
Reported January retail sales were tepid at best.
There are other issues facing Wal-Mart:
- Higher energy prices.
- Tougher comps: sales were pulled forward last year due to warm weather.
- Tax refund checks are late this year; that could be a major factor for customers.
There were a couple of other issues affecting retail stocks this morning:
First, traders tell me that Cleveland Research was out with a comment this morning saying Wal-Mart same-store sales were negative for February so far; this is why Wal-Mart gapped down at the open while the overall market was up.
Second, Gap went as high as $33.80 midday, a gain of nearly eight percent, on rumors that there was interest from Uniqlo, the Japanese retailer. Gap said it would not comment on rumors or speculation and has since come off its highs.
Wal-Mart, for its part, issued this statement: "As with any organization, we often see internal communications that are not entirely accurate, that lack the proper context and represent individual opinions. We will release our Q4 earnings on Thursday, Feb. 21, before the market opens."