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Wal-Mart's U.S. same-store sales show first growth in 7 quarters

REUTERS - Wal-Mart Stores Inc reported a higher-than-expected profit as comparable sales at its U.S. stores rose for the first time in seven quarters, helped by its small-format 'Neighborhood Market' stores and higher prices.

Wal-Mart's shares rose 2.2 percent in premarket trading.

The world's largest retailer said overall U.S. same-store sales rose 0.5 percent in the third quarter.

Wal-Mart has been facing sluggish sales in the United States as its core low-income customers struggle with stagnant wage growth and higher taxes. A cut in government food stamp benefits has also reduced their spending power.

The company cut the top end of its full-year forecast for earnings from continuing operations to $5.02 per share from $5.15. It raised the lower end by 2 cents to $4.92.

The company said its forecast took into account higher health-care costs for its U.S. employees, investments in e-commerce and a highly promotional holiday season.

Net profit attributable to Wal-Mart fell marginally to $3.71 billion, or $1.15 per share, for the quarter ended Oct. 31, from $3.74 billion, or $1.14 per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue rose to $119 billion from $115.7 billion.

Same-store sales at its Neighborhood Market stores rose about 5.5 percent.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of $1.12 per share on revenue of $118.32 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Chicago and Siddharth Cavale in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)