Stock Market Today: Hillshire Brands’ Bidding War and Dollar General’s Miss

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) might take a breather from its record-setting run today. The index fell 26 points in pre-market trading, suggesting a lower start to the stock market after two back-to-back closes in record territory. World indexes were mixed in overnight trading, with Asian stocks up slightly and European shares down by 0.4% as of 7:30 a.m. EDT. 

Meanwhile, news is breaking this morning on Hillshire Brands (NYSE: HSH  ) and Dollar General (NYSE: DG  ) , which should both see heavy trading in today's session.

Hillshire Brands' stock spiked higher by 8.6% in pre-market trading after the food company announced that it will conduct talks with its two corporate suitors, Pilgrim's Pride and Tyson Foods. At $55 a share in cash, Pilgrim's currently has the richest bid on the table to buy out Hillshire shareholders, but Tyson's isn't far off at $50. Both offers represent a more than 50% premium from where Hillshire's shares traded in January. The company stressed in a press release today that there "can be no assurances that any transaction will result from these proposals," because they both require it to walk away from its own proposed buyout of Pinnacle Foods. But investors seem to be betting not only that a Hillshire purchase will happen, but that the bidding will escalate further before it does: Hillshire's stock rose to as high as $58 a share before the opening bell. 

Dollar General today posted quarterly earnings results that were just a tad below Wall Street's expectations. Revenue rose to $4.5 billion while profit ticked higher to $0.71 a share. Analysts were targeting sales of $4.6 billion and earnings of $0.72. CEO Rick Dreiling said in a press release that the discount retailer's disappointing 1.5% same-store sales growth "reflected the challenges of unfavorable winter weather, heightened competition, and the current economic environment." Still, the company saw improving sales trends toward the end of the quarter, which gave management confidence to reaffirm its full-year guidance. Dollar General still sees same-store sales growing by between 3% and 4% in 2014, compared to last year's 3.3% growth. Profit should also come in at $3.50, ahead of the $3.20 it booked in 2013. The stock was up 1% in pre-market trading.

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