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Today, February 21, Walmart (WMT) reported s 76% year-over-year jump in earnings to $1.71 a share. Wall Street analysts had forecast earnings of $1.52 a share for the fourth quarter. Revenue rose 7.3% to $164 billion. Comparable store sales gained 8.3%. The company also announced a 2.4% dividend increase to 57 cents a share. (The record date for the dividend is March 17.)

All that pushed the company’s shares higher today with the stock up 0.59% at the close. Walmart stock is up almost 6% year-over-year. (Walmart is a member of my Jubak Picks Portfolio. The shares are down 2.47% since I added them on April 15, 2022.)

But the company sounded a cautious note for the fiscal first quarter and for all of 2023. CEO Doug McMillon said customers are “choiceful, discerning, thoughtful,” and while they are still spending money, it’s “obviously not clear” what the second half of the year will bring. “While the supply chain issues have largely abated, prices are still high and there is considerable pressure on the consumer,” Walmart CFO John Rainey told analysts. “Given the persistence of high prices and the potential for further macro pressures, we’re taking a cautious outlook for the year,” said Rainey. Walmart said it expects fiscal 2024 first-quarter earnings per share (EPS) of $1.25 to $1.30, and full-year EPS of $5.90 to $6.05. That guidance is below Wall Street estimates.

Those cautious comments helped send stocks in general lower today.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 ended the day down 2.00% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended off 2.06%. The NASDAQ Composite dropped 2.50%. The NASDAQ 100 fell 2.41%. The small-cap Russell 2000 retreated 2.69%

Walmart’s comments just reinforced fears that consumers are pulling back on spending under the joint pressures of higher inflation and rising interest Wall Street, which had been encouraged by the very strong 3% growth in retail sales in January is now starting to question that number with analysts taking a hard look at seasonal adjustments to the data and the effects of mild winter weather. (Analysts had expected 2% growth in retail sales for the month.) Retail sales numbers are not adjusted for inflation.