Save the date: Simon to speak

Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon should have plenty to say when he addresses investors March 5 at the 34th Annual Raymond James Institutional Investors Conference.

Simon’s comments precede the Raymond James conference but come roughly two weeks after Walmart reported disappointing top line growth at its U.S. stores by posting 1% comp increase that was at the low end of a forecast range calling for a gain of 1% to 3%. The company also issued a tepid outlook for first quarter growth with comps expected to be flat to up 2%.

The culprit behind the modest growth was thought to be a delay in tax refunds and to a lesser extent the payroll tax increase. First quarter expectations are diminished by rising fuel costs which hit new highs earlier in the year than normal and put pressure on Walmart shoppers' disposable income.

Investors will be looking for Simon to shed light on whether the rebound in U.S. same store sales growth that was ignited under his leadership two years ago is losing steam or macroeconomic forces and government ineptitude are to blame for the fourth quarter hiccup and first quarter pessimism.