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Kroger shares tumbled Thursday after the supermarket chain reported lighter-than-expected sales for its fiscal fourth-quarter an

CINCINNATI – Kroger shares tumbled Thursday after the supermarket chain reported lighter-than-expected sales growth for its fiscal fourth-quarter and predicted slower growth for an important retail metric in 2016.

The Cincinnati company’s fourth-quarter earnings beat Wall Street expectations but it offered an initial forecast range for 2016 that bracketed the average analyst expectation.

Overall, Kroger Co.’s earnings rose 8 per cent to $559 million, or 57 cents per share, in its fiscal fourth quarter. Revenue rose nearly 4 per cent to $26.17 billion. Analysts forecast, on average, earnings of 54 cents per share on $26.19 billion in revenue, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Shares of Kroger fell $2.85, or 7 per cent, to close at $37.80 on Thursday. Its shares are still up 8 per cent versus a year ago.

The company runs nearly 2,800 supermarket stores around the country, including locations under the Kroger and Harris Teeter banners.

Kroger said sales from stores open at least a year rose 3.7 per cent in the fourth quarter, not counting fuel but including six weeks of results from the recently acquired Roundy’s, which owns the supermarket chains Mariano’s, Metro Market and Pick ‘n Save.

Kroger expects sales from its established stores to grow between about 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent this year, a projection that accounts for lower inflation and the Roundy’s deal and excludes fuel.

Sales from established stores are an important metric for retailers because they exclude the impact of recently opened or closed stores.

Kroger also said it expects 2016 earnings to range between $2.19 and $2.28 per share.

Analysts forecast, on average, earnings of $2.24 per share, according to FactSet.

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Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on KR at http://www.zacks.com/ap/KR

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Keywords: Kroger, Earnings Report