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Wal-Mart's earnings fell 7.4% in the fourth quarter.  This makes analysts happy, because they topped expectations, and a 2.8% increase in domestic same-store sales looks positively magnificent next to the anemic results at most retailers--much of the decline stems from the costs of settling wage lawsuits. 

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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