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Quick Hits: Frozen Pizza Recession Diet Staple

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Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

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Investors may soon develop a taste for frozen pizza.

Recession-pinched consumers are eating out less, and that's good news for General Mills (GIS), maker of Totino's frozen pizza. Consumers are also buying more Progresso Soup, Betty Crocker dessert mixes and Yoplait yogurt in an effort to stretch the food budget.

General Mills reported a second quarter profit of $378.2 million, or $1.09 a share, compared with $390.5 million, or $1.14 a share for the same period a year ago. Excluding a write down for commodity hedges and a gain from selling Pop Secret popcorn, the company earned $1.36 a share. The consensus estimate was $1.23 a share.

The company's strong performance plays out against weak holiday sales and anemic auto sales. Consumers seek value and many find it in store brands at Wal-Mart (WMT), Safeway (SWY) and Kroger (KR).

Upscale retailers and restaurants are hurting, but McDonald's (MCD) said global same-store sales, or sales at outlets open at least a year, rose 7.7% in November and US sales rose 4.5%. The company credited strong sales of low-priced breakfast items, chicken sandwiches and its value menu.

Investors looking to plump their portfolios in a sour economy might consider looking at companies that offer consumers low prices and good value. For now, going downscale may be the way to boost returns.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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