Wal-Mart: No Longer A Proxy For U.S. Economy

| About: Wal-Mart Stores, (WMT)

The talk show nuts all wanted to talk this morning about a report that over half the kids being born in the U.S. are non-white.

But there's a different, somewhat unrelated, and more important story for y'all. WalMart (NYSE:WMT) is no longer a proxy for the U.S. economy.

The company's big earnings gain, to $3.7 billion in one quarter, was powered by results outside the U.S. Especially strong were Brazil, Britain and Mexico - the latter is where the company is presently suffering from a bribery scandal.

I asked last month whether the scandal was material. It is, materially positive.

Retailing may be the hardest nut to crack for a U.S. company. A product can be approved or stopped at a border, and that binary system can be fairly simple for executives to deal with. For retailing to work you need local infrastructure, not just stores but delivery systems. You need to invest heavily, you need to learn those customers, and you need to do business as the local government insists.

For WalMart this has been an ongoing decade-long struggle. In Britain the company moved in through the acquisition of Asda in 2006. WalMart has been working to crack the Brazil market since 1995 but still has more stores there under unrelated names than under its own brands.

In short WalMart has adapted. Where it needed local flavor it bought in, as with Japan's Seiyu. Where it needed a local name it made one, as with India's Best Price. And if bribery was the way to get the right to do business, as in Mexico, bribes were given.

The point is that this is the company's way forward. The U.S. is fairly tapped-out, at least using the current strategy of big stores. Same store sales here grew just 2.6% during the quarter, trailing the one-day gain of the earnings report, which was 2.9%.

Important to know if you're interested in buying in. Increasingly it's the controversies over new stores or wages in the U.S. that are the sideshow. The real action is going to be elsewhere.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.