Major benchmarks were largely lower on Wednesday morning, but all eyes were on the Federal Open Market Committee. The monetary policy body's two-day meeting will come to an end this afternoon, and many investors anticipate another reduction in interest rates designed to try to promote economic growth. As of 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.43%) was down 62 points to 27,048. The S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.21%) fell 7 points to 2,998, and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 0.00%) dropped 24 points to 8,162.
Everywhere across the economy, companies are aiming to serve their customers the best way they can. For e-commerce giant Amazon.com (AMZN -0.64%), that means trying to help make it easier for people who want to shop online but also want to pay using cash. For General Mills (GIS -0.88%), shifting trends among consumers toward different types of food products has been a cause for concern at the cereal giant, but its latest results show some of the things it's attempting in order to keep its leadership role in the food industry.
Amazon teams up with Western Union
Shares of Amazon.com eased lower by less than 1% Wednesday morning after the e-commerce giant announced a new collaboration. The company launched its PayCode service in the U.S., creating a partnership with Western Union to give its cash-paying customers another option for buying goods through the online marketplace.
Under the service, Amazon customers would choose PayCode at checkout and then proceed to one of 15,000 Western Union locations. There, they'd pay in cash for their items.
The move adds to Amazon's capacity to handle cash transactions. Amazon Cash already has more than 100,000 locations nationwide, allowing customers to load a cash balance into their Amazon account for future use. However, the advantage of PayCode is that shoppers will be able to reverse the order of the transaction, finding items and making purchases first and then only afterward visiting Western Union to pay for them.
Across the economy, many companies have aimed at eliminating cash transactions entirely. Yet Amazon's move shows that the war on cash has some stalwart holdouts, and they're worth wooing as potential customers -- even for the titan of online shopping.
Top o' the mornin' from General Mills
General Mills saw its stock climb modestly after releasing its fiscal first-quarter financial results. The numbers from the food giant were mixed.
On one hand, sales were lower, with revenue falling 2% and organic sales dropping 1%. The company suffered considerable sales hits in its international business, with the Europe and Australia segment seeing a 9% sales decline and Asia and Latin America falling 10%. Pet products were the saving grace for the company, with a 7% sales boost coming almost entirely from pricing power.
Yet the food giant did manage to boost its bottom line. Adjusted earnings per share climbed 13% from year-ago levels as the pet category once again delivered an outsize contribution to those gains. Solid results in North America were able to offset weak profit performance elsewhere across the globe.
General Mills investors have been prepared for continuing challenges in the food industry, and so the results didn't come as a big surprise. CEO Jeff Harmening believes that the company made "clear progress in becoming a nimbler, more consumer-connected General Mills" during the quarter, but there's still plenty more work to do to achieve the long-term goal of enhanced returns for the business.