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by Andrea Chang

Fiscal fourth-quarter profit soared at many of the nation’s largest retailers, although sales results were mixed.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Macy’s Inc. and Home Depot Inc. reported financial results on Tuesday that underscored the retailers’ improvement at cutting costs and driving robust profit gains. Profit rose 26% at

Wal-Mart, 50% at Macy’s and 72% at Home Depot.

But at Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, sales at U.S. stores open at least a year — known as same-store sales — fell for the seventh quarter in a row, declining 1.8% from the same quarter a year earlier. Some of the retail giant’s problems stem from merchandising issues — two years ago, Wal-Mart reduced the number of items it sold, which led customers to shop elsewhere — and from the increasing popularity of dollar stores. The company’s core customer is also still struggling.

We are disappointed by Wal-Mart U.S. fourth-quarter sales,” Chief Executive Mike Duke said in a statement. “Some of the pricing and merchandising issues in Wal-Mart ran deeper than we initially expected, and they require a response that will take time to see results.”

Wal-Mart’s fiscal fourth quarter ended Jan. 31.

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