By  on October 14, 2010

It was a bipolar day on Wall Street Wednesday, with investors reading the tea leaves at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s analyst conference and scratching their heads over a big jump in Saks Inc. shares.

The vast middle of retail was relatively quiet. The S&P Retail Index slipped 0.5 percent, or 2.20 points, to 461.62, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 0.7 percent, or 75.68 points, to 11,096.08.

Wal-Mart said fourth-quarter comparable-store sales at its namesake division would rise following a 2 percent drop last year. The U.S. path forward for Wal-Mart includes smaller stores—less than 30,000 square feet—that can squeeze into cities and towns. “The Wal-Mart U.S. business is focused on the core customer,” said Mike Duke, president and chief executive officer. “That customer needs us the most.”

Shares of Wal-Mart slipped 0.2 percent to $53.82.

Saks’ stock gained 4 percent to $9.97 and at one point had risen as much as 9.1 percent. There was no apparent development at Saks, but the company is rumor prone and said to be of continual interest to suitors of all sorts. Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim Helú and Diego Della Valle, chairman and ceo of Tod’s SpA, hold stakes of 16.1 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively.

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