Walmart delivers with strong second-quarter sales

NEW YORK — Walmart offered a dose of optimism amid growing concerns over weakening economic growth by raising its annual outlook after a strong second quarter.

Sales at stores opened at least a year rose 2.8%, its 20th consecutive quarter in the right direction as the world’s largest retailer continues to expand its grocery delivery services. U.S. online sales increased 37%.

Walmart’s chief financial officer Brett Biggs told reporters on a call that the consumers’ financial health remains “solid.”

The encouraging news from Walmart, considered a barometer of consumer health, came on the same day the government released a report that showed Americans had spent more at retail stores and restaurants in July.

Walmart and other major retailers have been left largely unscathed by the first several rounds of tariffs since they focused more on industrial and agricultural products. That is changing and retailers are bracing for a 10% tariff targeting goods like toys, clothing and shoes. The tariff has been delayed until December after the Trump administration voiced concern about the impact on consumers and businesses during the holiday season.

U.S. retail sales rise strongly in sign of consumer optimism

WASHINGTON — Americans spent more at retail stores and restaurants in July, a sign that concerns over weakening economic growth and a persistent trade war that have roiled financial markets have yet to dampen consumer confidence.

Retail sales rose a healthy 0.7% last month after a 0.3% gain in June, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Online retailers, grocery stores, clothing retailers and electronics and appliance stores all reported strong gains.

Consumer spending, the primary driver of the U.S. economy, appears healthy even as other sectors of the economy, such as business investment, have weakened amid growing uncertainty over the U.S.-China trade conflict. Job growth is steady, the unemployment rate is near a 50-year low, and wages are rising modestly, which bolsters Americans’ spending power.

Long-term mortgage rates remain at near historic lows

WASHINGTON — U.S. long-term mortgage rates remained near historically low levels this week against a backdrop of volatile financial markets around the globe.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the benchmark 30-year loan was unchanged at 3.60%, its lowest level since November 2016. A year ago the rate stood at 4.53%.

The average mortgage rate for 15-year, fixed-rate home loans edged up to 3.07% from 3.05% last week.

Continued anxiety over the U.S.-China trade war and slowing global economic growth made for a rocky ride in the markets. On Wednesday, U.S. stocks plunged after the bond market sent out a fairly reliable warning signal of recession.

The whipsawed markets have sent investors fleeing from stocks to the safety of bonds, pushing bond interest rates to record lows.

Michael Dekker

918-581-8469

michael.dekker@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @michaeldekkerTW