After posting a triple-digit loss yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is off by 38 points in pre-market trading, suggesting a negative start to the stock market today. Global markets fell across the board overnight, but only slightly: Asian stocks lost less than 1%, while European shares were down 0.4% as of 8:30 a.m. EDT. Meanwhile, General Mills (NYSE: GIS ) and Monstanto (NYSE: MON ) stocks should see heavy trading today after the companies delivered their quarterly numbers before the opening bell.
Monsanto told investors in April that it would book a "strong second half" of its fiscal year, and it delivered on that promise today. The company this morning posted $1.62 a share in fiscal third-quarter profit, ahead of the $1.56 that analysts were expecting. Monsanto also boosted its full-year outlook for both earnings and cash flow, mainly thanks to spiking profits from its soybean seed business. That division saw earnings leap by 25% as production ramped up toward the goal of 10 million to 12 million acres next year. The company also announced that it plans to take on more debt in order to "pursue both organic and external growth opportunities while returning capital to shareholders." Those capital returns will begin quickly and pack a big punch: Monsanto expects to spend a massive $5 billion annually on share repurchases over the next two years. The stock was up 5% in pre-market trading.
General Mills today posted surprisingly weak quarterly results on both its top and bottom lines. The snack food giant's sales fell 3% year over year, to $4.3 billion, while analysts had been looking for a slight increase to $4.4 billion. The news was even worse on the profit side: fiscal fourth-quarter earnings came in well below target, leading to just $2.82 in full-year EPS, compared to the $2.90 management had forecast three months ago. The company blamed marketing investments that didn't deliver expected sales growth and rising food costs that pinched earnings. CEO Ken Powell summed it up simply, saying in a press release, "Our sales and operating profit results were disappointing." General Mills announced cost-cutting plans aimed at boosting profitability this year, but also gave a weak outlook for sales growth over the next four quarters. The stock was down 3.2% in pre-market trading.
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