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AutoZone Profit Misses Forecasts on Slower Demand

AutoZone, the largest U.S. auto parts retail chain, posted weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings as high gas prices curtailed demand, sending shares lower.

Net income for the fourth quarter rose 1.7% to $217.2 million, or $3.23 per share, from $213.5 million, or $2.92 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average expected $3.25 per share, according to Reuters Estimates. Sales in the quarter ended Aug. 25 rose 3.3% to a little over $2 billion, shy of the $2.03 billion analysts had expected.

Domestic sales at stores open at least a year, a key retail measure known as same-store sales, slipped 0.2% for the quarter. That was below the 1.3% increase for Advance Auto Parts , the No. 2 U.S. retail chain, for the second quarter ended July 14.

Retail sales in the quarter rose 2.7% while commercial sales increased 0.5 percent. AutoZone opened 53 stores and replaced three others in the quarter, while closing one in the United States. It also opened 13 stores in Mexico. At the end of August, the Memphis, Tenn.-based company had 3,933 stores in the United States and Puerto Rico, and another 123 in Mexico.

Hedge fund manager Edward Lampert is AutoZone's largest shareholder.

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