Wall Street awaits Walmart’s inflation update

Economist: Earnings will be driven by consumer spending and soaring retail sales

Walmart will report fiscal fourth quarter and year-end earnings before the market opens on Tuesday, giving investors a boots on the ground read into how inflation is affecting consumers.

The world's biggest retailer with more than 5,000 U.S. stores is expected to report a 4.5% increase in revenue to $159.72 billion, according to the mean estimate from 27 analysts, based on Refinitiv data. The company's guidance on Nov. 15 2022, for the period ended January 31, was for revenue of $157.46 billion.

Higher-income shoppers in recent months have been drawn to its "Everyday Low Price" strategy.

Refinitiv's mean analyst earnings estimate is $1.51 per share. The company's earnings per share guidance on Nov. 15 2022, for the period ended Jan. 31, was between $1.45 and $1.48.

In November, Walmart reported strong third quarter profits and revenue amid the tumultuous economic environment, raising its full year outlook.

Sales rose 8.7% to $152.81 billion, which beat Wall Street estimates of $147.7 billion, according to FactSet, while sales in Walmart’s U.S. stores open for at least a year grew 8.2% and online sales rose 16%.

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Economic engine

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Walmart truck driving on the interstate on a cloudy day, May 25, 2018, Bakersfield, Calif. (iStock / iStock)

With a market capitalization around $400 billion, Walmart can be a valuable barometer for consumer spending habits for staples including food and drinks, household cleaners and soaps, apparel, minor auto products and vehicle upkeep under roof.

In an interview with FOX Business, Clemson University Economist Bruce Yandle said, "Walmart’s earnings are driven by consumer spending, and retail sales are soaring."

"Part of the store’s earnings growth is driven by higher priced groceries, but they have far more in the mix," he added.

The chain accounted for 15.72% of all food and grocery spending in the U.S. in 2022, according to GlobalData.

Yandle said rising inflationary pressures across a swath of industries would be reflected in Walmart’s earnings report, particularly in "motor vehicle maintenance and repair, cereals and bakery products, apparel and gasoline.

"There are also gains and losses in productivity as well as shifts in demand with differential outcomes that can be reflected," he continued. "Part of the variation is nominal — inflation, while part is real."

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Walmart Supercenter in Rogers

The fresh produce section is seen at a Walmart Supercenter in Rogers, Ark., June 6, 2013. (Reuters/Rick Wilking/File Photo / Reuters Photos)

Craig Erlam, a senior market analyst for OANDA, told FOX Business, "The most notable takeaway from Walmart's earnings will be the strength of the consumer in the U.S. and what inflation means for margins."

"The combination of these, along with the company’s outlook for 2023 will determine how much investors warm to them," he said. "This year is likely to be much tougher, making any margin squeeze a tough pill to swallow."

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Year-to-date, Walmart shareholders have watched their stock price rise roughly 2%, and approximately 7% in the past last year, as consumer spending remains resilient in the face of unrelenting inflation.

Wall Street expects Walmart sales and revenue to rise in 2023 as its shipping and logistics costs moderate, even as labor expenses go up.

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Daniella Genovese and Reuters contributed to this report.