General Mills Provides Comfort Food for Investors
is nearing a 52-week high this morning, as the company reported a 14% rise in revenue for the latest quarter.
The company's U.S. Retail segment grew 13% to $2.3 billion, with gains recorded by every division. The Baking Products division grew 25%, reflecting strong gains by Betty Crocker dessert mixes and Gold Medal flour. The international business segment also grew nicely, up 15% to $690 million.
The company slightly raised its EPS forecasts to a range of $3.81 to $3.85 per share. Previously, the company's 2009 earnings guidance was a range of $3.78 to $3.83 per share.
We have recommended the shares since our early June coverage began, when they were trading at $61.63. We like the shares here, and would like to add to the name on pullbacks of course. However, we would caution against chasing the stock on any earnings news spike. The company is solid, and investors can turn to the cereal-maker for some rare comfort in the turbulent economic environment we are currently in. The company has a 2.33% dividend yield, based on last night's closing stock price of $68.55.
General Mills is a "Recommended" dividend stock, holding a Dividend.com Rating of 3.8 out of 5 stars.
Constellation Energy in Free Fall on Possible Credit Ratings Change
is one of the names we downgraded in early August, when its shares -- and many of the coal stocks -- were starting to show signs of fatigue.
We downgraded shares of CEG off of our "Recommended" list on Aug. 1, at a price of $83.16. We certainly didn't think the shares would be down 60% in such a small amount of time since then. Today's news that the Standard & Poor's ratings agency may lower Constellation's credit ratings on concerns over the power supplier and utility owner's access to credit.
The company is reported to be looking for strategic alternatives, possibly even a sale of the company.
We are still avoiding shares at this point, despite the possibility of a sale by the company. The market conditions and views toward a company with heavy debt is taking on greater significance, and the timeline to getting a deal done is becoming critically important.
Brady Lowers 2009 Earnings Estimates
, maker of labels, signs, safety devices, printing systems and software, is taking 2009 estimates down on current economic conditions.
The company is revising its guidance for 2009 from revenue estimates of $1.56 to $1.59 billion, to sales of between $1.52 and $1.55 billion. EPS estimates were lowered from $2.63 to $2.75 to a range of $2.54 to $2.63.
On the brighter side, the company is raising its quarterly dividend payout from 15 cents to 17 cents per share. This represents Brady's 23rd consecutive annual increase in dividends. The dividend will be paid on Oct. 31, 2008, to shareholders of record at the close of business on Oct. 10, 2008.
We have avoided shares of Brady since our initial coverage began in early June, when shares were trading near the $38 level. We like the dividend increase, but the lowered guidance isn't giving us much to look forward to. We believe investors may want to look elsewhere for better opportunities. The company has a dividend yield of 1.91%, based on last night's closing stock price of $35.65.
Brady is not a recommended dividend stock at this time, holding a Dividend.com rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars.
Morgan Stanley Pre-Reports Huge Earnings Surprise
surprised investors with an earlier-than-expected earnings release yesterday afternoon. The company reported EPS of $1.32 per share, which was above Thomson Reuters analyst estimates of just 78 cents per share.
The company's revenue rose slightly during the quarter to $8.05 billion from $7.96 billion. The company may need to consider pursuing a merger partner in the form of a well-capitalized bank, as Morgan Stanley and
are the last two large independent brokers left standing.
We believe the future of what Morgan Stanley will truly depend on the market's reaction to the stock over the next week or so. Merrill Lynch is certainly sleeping better these nights knowing it is not going the way of Lehman Brothers. This is truly a high-stakes Wall Street drama that will continue to unfold. Regardless, investors need to keep a distance from these troubled names until the dust settles a bit.
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At the time of publication, the author had no positions in stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.
Tom Reese and Paul Rubillo are senior editors of Dividend.com. Visit Dividend.com for more dividend stock ratings, picks, news, and analysis for long-term and income-seeking investors.