Monsanto ( MON) shares were down slightly in late-afternoon trading Friday after it was downgraded in the morning by JPMorgan.

Monsanto was down 70 cents, or 0.9 to $80.71 after it reported a 3.9% decline in fiscal second-quarter profit after Thursday's market close. JPMorgan downgraded the agribusiness giant from overweight to neutral, citing decelerating earnings growth.

Monsanto did see a 19% jump in corn seed sales for the quarter and a 35% jump in soybean sales.

The rise in corn sales came from higher seed prices, said CEO Hugh Grant.

While Monsanto didn't win big market-share advances during the quarter, Grant said higher profit margins on corn seed show the St. Louis-based company is executing its strategy of boosting profits by developing new traits for staple crops like corn and soybeans amid a growing global demand for food and crop-based fuels.

"We've stayed on course because we have maintained our focus," he told investors during a conference call Thursday.

Among shares of other companies engaged in the fertilizer business, Mosaic ( MOS) was up 3.5%, or $1.52 to $45.39.

Intrepid Potash ( IPI) was up 2.5%, or 50 cents to $20.55.

Agrium ( AGU) was higher by $1.41, or 1.9%, at $39.30.

CF Industries ( CF) was up 1.9%, or $1.41 to $74.08.

Potash ( POT) was higher by 1.1%, or 92 cents to $85.68.

Terra Industries ( TRA) was up 24 cents, or 0.9% to $27.89.

Scotts Miracle Gro ( GRO) was down $1, or 2.7%, to $35.78.
Copyright 2009 Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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