Walmart's Stock Surge Reflects Hard Times for the Cash-Strapped

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WalmartWalmart's (WMT) recent stock surge might be a good sign for the nation's biggest discounter, but it also highlights the economic fragility of America's low- and moderate-income consumers, its core shoppers.

On July 27, shares of the world's biggest retailer soared to a record high of $74.80.

Walmart's numbers are considered bellwethers for the retail industry. But on the other side of the equation, when Walmart sees its earnings improving, the theory goes, it's often because times are tougher for the nation's financially strapped.

Walmart's stock surge followed the retailer's healthy first-quarter earnings report. For the most recent quarter, which ended in April, the discounter posted its biggest comparable-store sales gains in three years.

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Meanwhile, poverty in America is poised to reach its highest level since 1965, the Associated Press reports. The poverty rate is expected to reach 15.7%, up from 15.1% in 2010, according to a survey of economists, think tanks and academics.

Walmart has stepped up its pursuit of these very consumers -- many of whom have been flocking instead to dollar stores -- by lowering its prices further this year.

In March, Walmart detailed a $2 billion plan to "reinvest" in low prices, expressly in areas such as food and consumables, to drive more traffic to its 3,868 U.S. stores.

"We're investing in price leadership and giving savings to our customers," Mike Duke, CEO, told investors at Walmart's shareholders meeting last month.

Seems they're going to need it.

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At Walmart Stores, 'Bizzaro World' Episodes Unfold
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Walmart's Stock Surge Reflects Hard Times for the Cash-Strapped

A man was thrown in jail after trying to steal socks from a Walmart store in Exton, Pa. But it seems socks weren't the only article of clothing he needed, as he was buck naked.

Store surveillance footage caught the 6-foot-4, 300-pound man walking around the store in the buff. No word on why the man was nude or what style of socks he tried to lift.

AP Video below slide show.

Plenty of people use Walmart as their drugstore -- but not all the drugs being sold there are found in the pharmacy department.

A janitor found a "shake and bake" methamphetamine lab in the women's restroom at a Walmart store in Boaz, Ala. The custodial worker discovered a Nestle water bottle and five empty packets of pseudoephedrine -- the makings of the psychostimulant drug also known as "the poor man's cocaine" -- in a bathroom stall.

Curiously, the pseudoephedrine wasn't a brand sold at Walmart, so the chemists couldn't have gotten it in house. But apparently, they thought Walmart would make a good meth den.

At a Walmart in Lexington, N.C., a man loaded his cart with $476 worth of merchandise that included a vacuum cleaner and a microwave oven. He then tried to pay at the register with a fake $1 million bill, insisting to the cashier that it was real. (The largest U.S. bill in circulation is $100 -- not even close.)

Store staff called the police, and the man was charged with two felonies: attempting to obtain property under false pretenses, and presenting a phony document as a legitimate form of payment.

A shopper looking for a new wallet at a Walmart store in Falmouth, Mass., discovered 10 human teeth in the zipper compartment of the billfold he was about to buy. One of the adult teeth had a filling, according to police. Save for its toothy contents, the wallet appeared new, complete with merchandise tags.

In one of the more creative attempts at shoplifting, an 18-year-old man outfitted in a cow suit swiped 26 gallons of milk from a Walmart in Garrisonville, Va. The man was seen crawling as he exited the store in an effort to emulate an ambling bovine.

The cow impersonator was at least generous with his dairy loot: Witnesses told the sheriff's deputies that he was handing out the stolen milk jugs to passersby outside the store. Law enforcement officials later caught the milk thief at a nearby McDonald's.

A man was glued to his seat -- literary, in the men's bathroom at a Walmart store in Elkton, Md. In what appeared to be an April Fool's prank that went way too far, the 48-year-old victim got stuck to a toilet seat smeared with glue and couldn't get up.

The man called for help and emergency workers tried in vain to unstick the man. Eventually, they gave up and unbolted the seat from the toilet, then took the man to the hospital with it still attached to him. There, the seat was removed from his ... er, seat. The man was said to have suffered only minor injuries to his derriere.

To conclude with an episode that is equal parts strange and sweet, Wayne and Susan Brandenburg first met at a Walmart in Brunswick County, North Carolina, when Susan was a cashier and Wayne was a shopper.

Love blossomed, and when the time came to tie the knot, the couple opted to exchange their wedding vows where their courtship began. In front of family and friends, the Brandenburgs said 'I do,' in the layaway section.

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