WALMART Stores raised its annual dividend by nearly 9% on Thursday, as momentum in the company’s key Walmart US chain has rebounded. The world’s largest retailer said that its board approved a dividend of $1.59 per share in fiscal 2013, which ends next January, up from $1.46 last year. Last year, Walmart raised its dividend by 20.6%.Walmart has high expectations for the current fiscal year, with the core Walmart US business “back on track”, CEO Mike Duke said in a statement. Shares of Walmart, a component of the Dow Jones industrial average, rose to $59.63 in premarket trading after closing at $59.08 on Wednesday. Walmart US posted its second straight rise in quarterly same-store sales last week, and traffic in the stores rose for the first time after six quarterly declines. Walmart’s international business is still growing and the Sam’s Club warehouse chain has also done well. Still, Walmart continues to invest in areas such as e-commerce, where it trails market leader Amazon.com, and needs to cut costs to keep its prices low in the United States. Walmart has raised its dividend every year since it first declared a dividend of 5 cents per share in 1974. The dividend will be paid in quarterly instalments of 39.75c/share, with the first payment on April 4 to shareholders of record as of March 12. Walmart said that it returned $11.3bn to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks last year.The retail giant is the major shareholder of SA's Massmart Holdings [JSE:MSM].