NEW YORK — At a time when many companies have curtailed bonuses and merit raises, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Thursday it’s awarding about $2 billion to its U.S. hourly associates through bonuses, profit sharing and 401K contributions. The world’s largest retailer has outpaced its rivals with its low-price message that clicks with budget-conscious shoppers, analysts have said. Wal-Mart is the No. 2 best performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, down 1.5% in the past 12 months compared with the 39% drop in the Dow.
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