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(Monsanto item updated to reflect its closing stock price Wednesday.)



) -- The weed-killer Roundup, a one-time cash cow for



that came out from under patent protection a decade ago, continues to haunt the agricultural products company.

Before Wednesday's opening bell, Monsanto reported a loss for its fiscal first quarter of $19 million, or 3 cents a share, on revenue of $1.7 billion, missing analysts targets of a break-even bottom line on revenue of $2 billion.

A year ago, Monsanto posted a profit of $556 million, or $1 a share, on revenue of $2.65 billion.

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Despite the shortfall in the quarter, Monsanto reaffirmed its earlier earnings guidance for the full-year 2010 of $3.10 to $3.30 a share, excluding charges. On average, analysts are targeting a per-share profit of $3.29 a share, according to Thomson Financial.

Roundup sales tumbled to $509 million in the quarter from $1.36 billion a year ago as generic competition, especially from China, continues to gouge Monsanto's Roundup business. All through 2009, the company has been forced to scale back its Roundup outlook, with sales and profits in the segment declining faster than expected.

Meanwhile, Monsanto has attempted to direct investor focus to its ongoing transformation into a bioengineered seed company -- a business that it already dominates -- and to that end Monsanto made its annual research-and-development pipeline update Wednesday.

But investors chose to focus elsewhere. Early in Wednesday's session, Monsanto shares retreated from the previous close, but as the day wore on, the stock rallied in hectic trading. It closed Wednesday at $86.27, up 1.5%, on volume of 13.3 million shares, more than double the daily average turnover in the name.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.