Costco Wholesale Corp said quarterly profit rose slightly on higher international sales and a weaker U.S. dollar that offset the effect of rising gasoline prices.

The No 1 U.S. warehouse club operator on Thursday said profit in its fiscal first quarter ended November 22 was $266 million, or 60 cents per share, in line with analysts' expectations. That was an increase of 1.1 percent from the year-earlier $263 million, or 60 cents per share.

Analysts, on average, were expecting 60 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Costco has said that during the quarter, its sales were pressured by falling prices for food and electronics. A year ago, it got a lift from falling gasoline prices, which boosted profitability at the gas stations at its clubs.

Shoppers pay an annual fee to shop in the clubs and get discounts on everything from fresh fruit to flat-panel TVs to bulk-sized packages of paper towels.

Warehouse clubs like Costco, Wal-Mart Stores Inc's Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club Inc have gained customers amid the economic downturn as shoppers seek out low prices on necessities like groceries or toiletries.

Costco's first-quarter sales rose 5.5 percent to $16.92 billion, excluding membership fees, which increased 5 percent to $377 million.

The company's shares were up 0.9 percent to $59.21 in thin premarket trading.


Costco, which operates 566 warehouses worldwide, including 413 in the United States and Puerto Rico, got a boost from international sales and the weaker dollar.

Sales at clubs open at least a year -- a key retail gauge known as same-store sales -- increased 3 percent companywide.

International same-store sales rose 13 percent; U.S. same-store sales rose just 1 percent. Excluding the effects of currency fluctuation, same-store sales rose 8 percent internationally and 2 percent in the United States.

Costco's monthly same-store sales fell through much of this year as shoppers shunned purchases of discretionary merchandise like jewelry and clothes.

But same-store sales returned to positive territory in September, October and November, marking an improvement from August, when same-store sales fell 2 percent. The retailer has said it is seeing demand return for products besides food, like sporting goods, clothes and cameras.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba; additional reporting by A.Anathalakshmi in Bangalore and Nicole Maestri in San Francisco; editing by John Wallace)