The following is a round-up of news likely to affect stock prices today:

Peabody Energy's (BTU) sweetened deal to buy Macarthur Coal Ltd. for $3.3 billion was rejected by the Australian company. Macarthur said the offer was still too low.

Monsanto (MON) shares dropped some 3.5% before the bell after the company reported a 19% decline in second quarter profits as revenue also fell. Not only did results missed estimates, but the seed maker also acknowledged it may not meet its goal of doubling 2007 gross profit by 2012.

Renault SA, Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) and Daimler AG (DAI) have announced an alliance to produce small, fuel efficient cars that includes minority stakes in each other. The partnership will focus on sharing the development and production of chassis and engines.

Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) shares are down about 1.4% in premarket trading after its top executive dismissed speculation his company would merge with Verizon Wireless venture partner Vodafone Group Plc (VOD), saying such a deal would offer little benefit.

CKE Restaurants Inc. (CKR) shares jumped 7.4% ahead of the bell after it received an alternative takeover proposal to acquire all the outstanding shares of the company.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) denied it bet against clients in the mortgage-derivatives market and said it was "grateful" for government assistance in the credit crisis.

Family Dollar Stores Inc. (FDO) reported fiscal second-quarter net income rose 33% to $112.2 million, or 81 cents a share, on 4.9% higher sales of $2.09 billion. Results topped analyst estimates. Same-store sales rose 3.6%. FDO gave slightly higher guidance than analyst expectations. Shares traded 5.8% higher in premarket action.

Hyatt Hotels Corp. (H) said it plans to expand into 15 new Indian markets over the next five years. That's after rival Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (HOT) said it is on track to grow its holdings in India 60%, or by 15 hotels, by 2013.

Zale Corp. (ZLC) is in talks with three finalists, including TPG and Golden Gate Capital, to take a stake in the jeweler, Bloomberg reported, citing three people with knowledge of the situation. Shares rose over 4% ahead of the bell.

DirecTV (DTV) said John Malone will step down as chairman and reduce his voting share in the company as part of a recapitalization of the company's stock to satisfy FCC requirements in Liberty Media's (LINTA) acquisition of a stake in DirecTV.

Dynegy Holdings Inc. (DYN) may have its long-term ratings downgraded by Moody's Investors Service because of reduced power margins. Moody's has a B2 corporate family rating on Dynegy.

Idex Corp. (IEX) said its board raised the quarterly dividend by 25% to 15 cents a share.

Analyst calls:
  • Goldman Sachs upgraded KeyCorp (KEY) from neutral to buy and raised the price target from $7 to $10 as it increased its EPS estimate to $1.00 from $0.78. Shares jumped over 5% ahead of the bell.
  • UBS upgraded Nokia (NOK) from neutral to buy.
  • Citigroup downgraded Sony (SNE) from buy to hold.

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