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Wal-Mart reports fourth-quarter profit

UNDATED - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported on Tuesday a better-than-expected 9.8 percent increase in fourth-quarter profits, helped by new strategy and cost-control measures at its flagship U.S. stores division.

But the world's largest retailer still faces the challenge of reinvigorating sales at its U.S. stores amid fierce competition, analysts said.

While profits and total sales were up around 10 percent each, Hoff noted that sales at stores open at least one year, a key measure of retail performance, only grew 1.3 percent in the fourth quarter after annual rates well over 5 percent early this decade.

Wal-Mart forecast same-store sales growth between 1 and

3 percent in the current quarter.

Wal-Mart said profit for the period ending Jan. 31 was $3.94 billion, or 95 cents per share, up from $3.59 billion, or 87 cents, from one year prior. Even without a $98 million tax benefit worth 2 cents per share, Wal-Mart's earnings beat the 90 cents per share forecast by analysts. - From wire reports