Market Updates: Monsanto (NYSE:MON), Saks (NYSE:SKS), AIG (NYSE:AIG), Dollar General (NYSE:DG)

Saks Incorporated

Monsanto (NYSE:MON) lowered the top end of its profit guidance for the full year. The agricultural products maker said earnings for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31 would be in the range of $2.40 to $2.45 a share, versus its prior forecast of $2.40 to $2.60 a share. Analysts polled were looking for earnings of $2.52 a share, on average. In other news, shares of Saks (NYSE:SKS) rose in premarket trade after the Daily Mail newspaper, citing unidentified sources, reported that a private-equity consortium was preparing a cash bid of $1.7 billion, or $11 a share, for the luxury retailer. –MarketWatch

AIG (NYSE:AIG) planned $2.15 billion sale of its Taiwan life insurance unit was blocked by local regulators, setting back the U.S. insurer’s effort to repay its $182.3 billion government bailout. A group led by Primus Financial Holdings Ltd. failed to convince the Financial Supervisory Commission it has the financial capability and long-term commitment to operate the business, Wu Tang-chieh, vice chairman of the regulator, said at a briefing in Taipei today. AIG agreed in October to sell its almost 98 percent stake in Nan Shan Life Insurance Co. to Primus Financial and China Strategic Holdings Ltd. The rejection deals a blow to AIG, which has been trying for more than a year to complete its second-biggest disposal since the September 2008 U.S. government bailout. It paves the way for Chinatrust Financial Holding Co. to bid for Nan Shan, Taiwan’s third-largest insurer by premiums. -Bloomberg

Dollar General (NYSE:DG) reported its fiscal 2010 second-quarter net income rose by 51% compared to the year-ago period, as sales climbed 10% and the company worked on further cost reduction and improved inventory control. For the quarter ending July 30, 2010, the thrift retailer reported net income grew to $141.2 million, or 41 cents per share, up from $93 million, or 29 cents per share in the same quarter a year ago. Excluding items, Dollar General reported earnings of 42 cents per share, topping analyst estimates of 38 cents per share. Sales grew 10% to $3.2 billion from $2.9 billion. Same-store sales increased 5.1% in the 2010 quarter and 8.6% in the 2009 quarter, with customer traffic and average transaction amounts contributing to growth in both periods. Gross margin improved to 32.2% from 31.2% last year. –Daily Finance

Currency traders showed signs of deep unease about the health of the global economy, as currencies seen as safe refuges climbing at the expense of riskier bets. Concerns that the U.S. may be sliding back into recession continue to hamper market sentiment, and steps by Japanese authorities to kickstart the domestic economy have left market-watchers unimpressed. The result is distinctly nervous trading patterns. The Swiss franc, arguably the market’s premier safe retreat, set a new record against the euro. The single currency fell to 1.2898 francs, well below its old low of 1.2971 francs. –The Wall Street Journal

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