Will Walmart Continue to Post Big Earnings If Federal Stimulus Spending Ends?

Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) reported second-quarter fiscal year 2021 results before markets opened Tuesday. The retailing giant posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.56 on net sales of $137.7 billion, including membership fees in Sam’s Club. In the same period a year ago, Walmart reported EPS of $1.27 on sales of $130.4 billion. Second-quarter results also compare to consensus estimates for EPS of $1.25 and $131.8 billion in sales.

Second-quarter results were “significantly affected” by the COVID-19 pandemic, which the company said “[i]ncreased demand for products across multiple categories [and] led to strong top-line and gross margin results.”

Same-store sales in the company’s U.S. Walmart stores rose by 9.3% and Sam’s Club comparable sales increased by 13.3%. International sales dipped by 6.8% due to government-ordered closures in India, Africa and Central America.

U.S. e-commerce sales nearly doubled (up 97%) at Walmart and rose 39% at Sam’s Club. Memberships at Sam’s Club rose by 60% and membership income reached its highest point in more than five years.

Free cash flow more than doubled year over year, from $6.3 billion to $15.4 billion. Adjusted EPS excluded a gain of $0.89 per share on the company’s equity investment of, a restructuring charge of $0.10 and a $0.08 charge for a tax item.

The company did not provide guidance, but consensus third-quarter estimates call for EPS of $1.15 and sales of $131.8 billion. For the full year, analysts have projected EPS of $5.01 on revenue of $547.07 billion.

What Walmart did say in a presentation accompanying the earnings release was that second-quarter sales “started strong, both in-store and online, … helped by government stimulus spending.” The company also noted that grocery sales were strong throughout the quarter. Then, this bit: “As stimulus funds tapered off, sales started to normalize, but July comps still grew more than four percent.”

The U.S. economic rebound began in May with a month-over-month gain of a record 18.2% as the first of the federal stimulus checks reached American consumers. Sales slipped a bit in June, posting a gain of 8.4%. In July, sales rose by just 1.2% month over month.

That downward trend in July consumer spending was also noted by Home Depot when it reported second-quarter earnings this morning.

Walmart’s stock traded up less than 0.1% in Tuesday’s premarket, at $135.74 in a 52-week range of $102.00 to $136.13. The high was posted Monday, and the consensus price target on the stock is $139.16.