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New York — Walmart bounced back from a lacklustre start to the year with the strongest sales gain in more than a decade fuelled by its grocery business, brightening the outlook for the overall retail sector. The stock soared in early trading. Comparable sales at US Walmart stores rose 4.5% in the three months to end-July, the company said on Thursday, more than double analysts’ estimates. Grocery sales rose the most in nine years thanks to improved fresh-food offerings, and web revenue growth accelerated from the previous period. The world’s biggest retailer also boosted its full-year forecasts for comparable sales and adjusted profit. Walmart has benefited from improved consumer sentiment and tax cuts that have put more money in Americans’ pockets this year. US retail sales rose by more than forecast in July, as shoppers snatched up apparel and school supplies. But investors remain broadly sceptical that brick-and-mortar retailers can keep pace with online rivals like Amazon.com, e...

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