Walmart missed forecasts for earnings and reported slower ecommerce sales growth in the fourth quarter, sending shares lower in premarket trading.

The world’s largest retailer said its US ecommerce sales grew 23 per cent in the three months to the end of January — a slowdown after reporting growth of more than 50 per cent in the previous three quarters.

Walmart has been investing in ecommerce to catch up with Amazon, and the efforts have paid off, although online shopping still makes up only about 4 per cent of the company’s nearly $500bn in annual sales.

On an adjusted basis, Walmart made $1.33 a share in the fourth quarter, lower than consensus forecasts of $1.37 a share, and up from $1.22 a share a year ago.

Total revenue in the quarter — which included the critical holiday period — was $136.3bn, eclipsing expectations for $134.9bn, from $130.9bn a year ago.

In positive news, sales at stores open for at least a year in the US rose 2.6 per cent in the quarter, with traffic to stores rising 1.6 per cent.

Walmart shares, which have climbed 51 per cent in the past year on the back of better than expected results, were down 3.3 per cent in premarket trading.

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