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Wal-Mart Surges as Economy Sputters

Shoppers check out at the counters of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in south Reno, Nev.
Shoppers check out at the counters of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in south Reno, Nev.Photograph by Scott Sady/AP Photo

Remember that old bit about watching out for falling prices?

Well, shares of Wal-Mart Stores hit an all-time high of $74.80 on July 27, having recently pierced levels they haven’t visited since 1999. The stock’s 25 percent year-to-date return is nearly triple that of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. Over the past 13 years, the chain that put Bentonville, Ark., on the map went from earning $4.4 billion on $137 billion in revenue to now clearing $16 billion on sales of $446 billion. Unemployment has since more than doubled from its New Economy-charged days of 4 percent.