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Australia's Woolworths Quarter Sales Up 10.2%

Woolworths, Australia's largest supermarket chain, reported on Wednesday a 10.2 percent rise in third-quarter sales, boosted by higher food and petrol prices and reiterated it expected
full-year sales growth of between 8 and 10 percent.

Total sales rose to A$11.639 billion (US$10.8 billion) from A$10.56 billion. That was in line with expectations of A$11.6 billion in a Reuters survey of six analysts.

Woolworths' shares were up 1.2 percent, just behind the 1.3 percent increase in the benchmark index.

Australian food and liquor sales rose 9.3 percent in the quarter. Same-store food and liquor was up 7.3 percent.

Woolworths, which has around 770 supermarkets and owns the Big W discount chain and Dick Smith Electronics, has expanded its market share over the past year as the rival Coles supermarket chain was sold to Wesfarmers in the country's largest takeover.

However, analysts say discretionary spending has begun to slow as consumers feel the pinch of the central bank's four recent interest rate hikes and higher petrol prices.

"Each of our businesses has positive momentum and whilst we are cautious about consumer confidence, we continue to expect sales from continuing operations for the full year to grow in the region of 8 to 10 percent," said Chief Executive Michael Luscombe in a statement.

Woolworths shares had fallen 15.5 percent since the start of the year to Tuesday's close, in line with the overall market's 14.8 percent decline.