Even though Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) has often been one of the few retail bright spots out there these days, it seems like some investors got the creepy feeling that maybe it's not as immune as they once thought.  

Wal-Mart's third-quarter net income increased 9.8% to $3.14 billion, or $0.80 per share. Income from continuing operations increased 6.6% to $3.03 billion.

Revenue increased 7.5% to $97.6 billion, and U.S. same-store sales jumped 3.3%; without fuel they would have increased a still impressive 3%. Meanwhile, in another metric Fools like to see increasing, Wal-Mart generated $2 billion in free cash flow in the first nine months of the year, compared to a deficit of $1.3 billion this time last year.  

The bad news is Wal-Mart's guidance for fourth-quarter earnings of $1.03 per share and $1.07 per share. For the full year, it expects earnings between $3.42 per share and $3.46 per share.

The fact that Wal-Mart "tightened and modestly reduced" its guidance seems to give some investors a cold shudder. After all, this has been a chilling time as so many retailers have slashed or even withheld guidance due to incredibly tough times for consumers. Wal-Mart's word just a day after Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) gave a chilling assessment is probably not too comforting.

Wal-Mart, Costco (NASDAQ:COST), and McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) have all been understood as safer havens in the economic storm, since they offer bargain-priced merchandise. Companies like Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFMI) have shown they have a far bigger struggle on their hands.

Wal-Mart is safe, but not immune to the spending slowdown; it's silly to imagine it would be. And while Wal-Mart has traditionally been one of my least favorite companies on the retail horizon (I just don't like how it does business), I have had to admit that its discount offerings in the current economic climate probably do make it a safer stock than most (and our Motley Fool CAPS community is pretty darn bullish on the stock -- it's got a four-star rating there).

I don't think there's any reason to dump shares of Wal-Mart, even if it shows it's not completely immune. It is without a doubt a survivor for these troubled times. However, I think a couple other things look even clearer: There will be some credit coal in Christmas stockings, and we may be witnessing the death of excessive luxury on the retail landscape. These elements should help Wal-Mart, especially in the near term.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.