Stock Market Today: MetLife’s $1 Billion Bet and Burlington’s Traffic Gains

After setting another new high yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has lost 18 points in pre-market trading, suggesting a lower start to the stock market today. Global stocks hung close to their own records in overnight trading: China's Shanghai index rose by 1%, while European shares were higher by 0.1% as of 8:30 a.m. EDT.

Meanwhile, news is breaking this morning on MetLife (NYSE: MET  ) and Burlington Stores (NYSE: BURL  )  stocks, which could both see heavier trading in today's session.

MetLife announced today that it is jumping back into the market for its own stock in a big way. The insurance giant will repurchase its shares for the first time since 2008 -- $1 billion in stock, to be exact. CEO Steven Kandarian explained the move in a press release: "Our philosophy is that excess capital belongs to our shareholders." The company will have to walk a fine line in that capital return program, though, because its regulatory minimum cash levels are still unknown as the Federal Reserve hasn't issued updated guidance for nonbank financial institutions. Still, taken alongside last month's 27% dividend boost, today's announcement confirms that MetLife is getting more serious about growing its cash returns to shareholders. The stock was up 1.1% in pre-market trading.  

Burlington Stores today posted a 6% quarterly sales boost as its off-price retailing model continued to resonate with shoppers. That improvement was fed by a 3% rise in comparable-store sales, which was below the previous quarter's 4% but still respectable given the tough retailing environment. Investors will be happy to see that Burlington didn't have to slice prices to keep customer traffic humming along: Profit rose to $0.25 a share from last year's $0.08 as gross margin expanded by almost a full percentage point to 38% of sales. CEO Tom Kingsbury said in a press release that the gains were "a direct result of the continued improvement in the execution of our off-price model." Burlington reaffirmed its financial targets for the full year, and expects sales growth of roughly 7% and earnings of $1.30 a share. The stock was up 2.2% in pre-market trading.

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