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Costco Net Misses Estimates as the Chain Boosts Discounts

Costco Wholesale Corp., the largest U.S. warehouse-club chain, reported fiscal first-quarter profit that trailed analysts’ estimates even as sales climbed as it offered greater discounts.

Net income in the quarter ended Nov. 24 rose to $425 million, or 96 cents a share, from $416 million, or 95 cents, a year earlier, the Issaquah, Washington-based company said today in a statement. Analysts projected profit of $447.5 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Costco has worked to lower its already discounted prices in the past year to attract more shoppers to its annual memberships. First-quarter sales at stores open more than a year increased 5 percent, excluding changes in gasoline prices and foreign-currency exchange rates.

Comparable revenue fell 0.3 percent at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in the U.S. and rose 0.9 percent at Target Corp. in their most recent quarters. Retailers from Wal-Mart to Macy’s Inc. have been offering deep discounts for the holiday season to lure shoppers who are uneasy about the strength of the economy and the security of their jobs.

Revenue from membership fees advanced 7.4 percent to $549 million, Costco said. That was part of a 5.5 percent increase in total revenue to $25 billion, the company said. That compared with the average analyst estimate of $25.4 billion.

Costco fell 1.2 percent to $118.57 at the close in New York. The shares have risen 20 percent this year, compared with a gain of 25 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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