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    Wal-Mart's September Sales Top Forecast

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores here said today its September sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose a better-than-expected 6 percent, as a blast of cool weather in the final week of the period drove demand for fall merchandise.

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores here said today its September sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose a better-than-expected 6 percent, as a blast of cool weather in the final week of the period drove demand for fall merchandise.

    The world's largest retailer said total sales in the five-week period ended Oct. 3 reached $23.4 billion, up 13 percent from the same period last year. Wal-Mart had expected a 3 percent to 5 percent increase in September same-store sales, and forecast a similar gain for October.

    Wal-Mart said last week's cold snap probably siphoned some demand from October. The first cold weather of the season usually arrives in the October sales period, not in September, Wal-Mart said.

    The Sam's Club warehouse division continued its strong turnaround after several years of underperformance, reporting an 8.2 percent same-store sales increase for September, against a 1.6 percent gain last year.

    The Wal-Mart stores division posted a 5.6 percent September same-store sales increase, compared with a 3.6 percent gain a year ago. The September same-store sales increase outpaced last year's 3.3 percent monthly gain but was below the 6.9 percent jump reported in August, when child tax credits drove particularly strong back-to-school sales.

    Wal-Mart had cautioned investors that the September sales growth would not be as strong as August's, in part because consumers had already spent tax credits on back-to-school goods, and steep gasoline prices kept budgets tighter.

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