Will Wal-Mart Move Market, Thursday?

Investors are eager to hear from Wal-Mart Thursday before the bell. What should you expect?

Wal-Mart has been one of the few bright spots in retailing over the past year, benefiting from financially squeezed shoppers who are seeking less expensive options.

Lately, Wal-Mart has out performed rivals Target and Costco largely due to the right mix of merchandise and marketing to enhance its renewed focus on price.

As part of its efforts to draw cost-conscious shoppers, in March Wal-Mart relaunched its Great Value line of store label products, pledging that they are tastier and look more attractive.

What should you expect?

Results could beat estimates. Last week, Wal-Mart reported that same-store sales rose 5 percent in April, surpassing the 2.9 percent estimate projected by Wall Street. By comparison, Target had a 0.3 percent gain.

Digging down into the report, investors will likely focus on Wal-Mart's expectations for consumer spending and when it believes a recovery will begin.

Analysts also will be interested in hearing more about shoppers' ability to spend on discretionary items, and how Wal-Mart is capitalizing on the liquidations of competitors like Circuit City.

Todd Slater, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets, wrote in a note published Friday that he is raising his first-quarter earnings estimate to 78 cents from 77 cents based on Wal-Mart's better-than-expected same-store sales.

"Wal-Mart is the best positioned value-proposition retailer in this current economic environment, in our opinion," he wrote. "We think the company is at a pivotal inflection point." He added that the discounter is infusing its stores with exclusive labels that should help increase its market share gains.

Citi retail analyst Deborah Weinswig concurs. She tells Fast Money, I expect to hear that home goods were an area of strength and that they’re gaining market share in food and consumables.

In case you’re wondering, analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect Wal-Mart to earn 77 cents per share for the first quarter; for the year they project $3.55 per share.

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