The planet's (and America's) largest retailer has cast a shadow over the nation's stop-start economic recovery with its latest sales performance.

Wal-Mart says sales grew by just 0.7% in the year to November, well below recent growth forecasts of between 2% and 4%.

The figures were issued after 'Black Friday', the day after the Thanksgiving holiday. It is traditionally seen as the equipoise at which retailers' profit for the year becomes evident. Last week's Friday was disappointing, according to Wal-Mart.

Says Bill Beemer, of America's Research Group: "This year they did not get nearly as aggressive on the early-bird specials, and it cost them." However, discount timings aside, he also found shopping levels overall were flat or down by as much as 5%.

Other reports, though, have been more upbeat. Shoppertrak showed sales on Friday grew 10.8% from a year ago to $8 billion (€6bn, £4.2bn) while Visa USA said spending on its cards had risen 15.5% to $4.1bn.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff