Wal-Mart Stores reported better-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday as shoppers seeking relief from deteriorating global economic conditions scoured its aisles for discounts on groceries and medicine.

The world's biggest retailer reported net income of $3.14 billion (2.1 billion pounds), or 80 cents per share, for the third quarter ended October 31, up from $2.86 billion, or 70 cents per share, a year earlier.

The company said earnings from continuing operations were 77 cents per share.

Wal-Mart had forecast earnings of 73 cents to 76 cents per share from continuing operations. Analysts on average had been expecting 76 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales rose more than 7 percent to $97.6 billion.

The results come a week after U.S. retail chains reported their worst October sales results in 35 years as consumers cut spending sharply due to the global financial meltdown and rising unemployment.

The dour environment has roiled retailers, with Circuit City Stores Inc CCTYQ.PK filing for bankruptcy protection this week and Best Buy Co Inc slashing its profit forecast, citing "seismic changes in consumer behaviour."

But Wal-Mart's sales have outpaced competitors as cautious consumers adopt a thrifty attitude and try to stretch their dollars by shopping in its stores.
For the full year, the retailer now expects earnings per share from continuing operations of $3.42 to $3.46, compared with a previous view of $3.43 to $3.50.

It cited "rapid changes" in currency exchange rates for the new forecast.