LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., posted a modest 3.8 percent in profit growth on Monday but said it expects electronics and other general merchandise to propel it to a healthy holiday season, though spending may slacken when the bills come due early next year.

Income rose to $2.4 billion, or 57 cents per share, for the quarter ended Oct. 31 from $2.3 billion, or 54 cents per share, a year ago. Earnings in the latest quarter included three items, including hurricane-related costs, that reduced results by $80 million, or 2 cents per share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had forecast 57 cents per share.

Revenues were $76.35 billion with sales of $75.4 billion, an increase of 10.1 percent over $68.5 billion in sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2005. Sales at stores opened at least a year, known as same-store sales, rose a modest 3.8 percent. Same-store sales are considered an important measure of a retailer's health because they don't inflate overall growth from new store openings.

Wal-Mart shares rose 30 cents to close at $49.30 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange, where they have traded in a 52-week range of $42.31 to $57.89.

In a conference call with investors, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott didn't address criticism the company has come under for labor and other practices except to note Wal-Mart's critics had some praise for the retailer's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Scott said Wal-Mart sustained sales despite the hurricanes, gasoline prices that skyrocketed in the quarter and higher home heating bills. The hurricanes — Katrina, Rita and Wilma — closed hundreds of Wal-Mart stores, at least temporarily, but Wal-Mart's third-quarter numbers held up.

Scott called the quarter a "pretty good performance in a difficult environment."

"I believe we will have a good holiday season," Scott said. He noted that the hurricanes would in the longer term improve employment and the economy but said January and February could be difficult months when holiday bills come due and higher heating oil and natural gas prices have a greater impact.

Analyst Dan Hess, president and chief executive of Merchant Forecast, a New York-based independent research company, agreed that Wal-Mart should do well for the holiday.

"With Wal-Mart, it's not just about the numbers and the forecast. All types of social issues play a role in the public perception of Wal-Mart," Hess said.

So far, the public is voting with its feet and is continuing to shop at Wal-Mart stores, he said.

"The issues of conscience, right now at least, appear to be affecting the stock price more than affecting sales," Hess said. "At the end of the day, Wal-Mart is taking market share away from other retailers."