Stock Market Today: Wal-Mart and Kohl’s Disappoint

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) lost 31 points in pre-market trading, suggesting a negative start to the stock market today. Global markets didn't move much overnight: Japan's Nikkei index fell by 0.7% and Europe's Stoxx index was lower by just 0.2% as of 7:30 a.m. EDT.

Ahead on the economic calendar is a highly anticipated vote from the FCC on net neutrality rules later today, along with an updated look at the housing market from the National Association of Home Builders due out at 10 a.m. EDT. 

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) and Kohl's (NYSE: KSS  ) stocks are already on the move this morning after the retailers delivered their quarterly earnings results.

Wal-Mart announced sales and earnings figures that were below analysts' expectations. The retailing giant's revenue improved by a slight 0.8% to $114 billion as customer traffic continued to shrink in its U.S. stores. Wall Street was targeting a more robust 1.8% sales gain. Profit also came in surprisingly low, falling 3.5% to $1.10 a share. The 15 analysts that cover the company had expected, on average, per-share earnings of $1.15. 

Wal-Mart said extreme winter weather in parts of the U.S. pushed expenses up and dragged sales down. But the company sees potential for growth ahead, particularly in its smaller-format stores. Management pointed to the 5% comparable-store sales gain in its neighborhood market shops, a relief compared to the 0% comp growth overall. Still, even that success won't turn things around quickly for the retailer. Wal-Mart's updated outlook called for earnings to fall again next quarter, to $1.20 a share, which is below the consensus estimate of a slight increase to $1.28. The stock was down 2.7% in pre-market trading.

Kohl's also came up short in its quarterly results, posting a 9% profit dip on 3% lower sales. Revenue fell to $4.1 billion, shy of the $4.2 billion that analysts were expecting. Earnings of $0.60 a share was also just below target. The department store's comparable sales shrunk by 3.4%, a worse result than last quarter's 2% dip. But management sees the shortfall as just a temporary problem: CEO Kevin Mansell said in a press release accompanying the results that despite the overall weak numbers, Kohl's was "encouraged by the improvement in sales as the quarter progressed." The company maintained its guidance for the full year, and anticipates collecting earnings of about $4.25 a share. The stock was down 3.2% in pre-market trading.

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