UPDATE 3-General Mills profit beats estimates on volume gain

Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:03pm EDT
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* Earnings of $0.64 per share top Wall Street view of $0.57

* Raises full-year outlook by 1 cent per share

* Expects higher costs to hurt fourth-quarter earnings

* Shares up 3 percent

By Martinne Geller

March 20 (Reuters) - General Mills Inc reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings on Wednesday after sales volume of its core brands rose for the first time in two years, a good sign for the U.S. packaged food industry.

The maker of Cheerios cereal, Progresso soups and Haagen-Dazs ice cream saw its shares rise more than 3 percent to their highest level in at least three decades.

So far this year the shares are up 19 percent, with much of that coming in the wake of the Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital deal for H.J. Heinz, which has boosted valuations for many food companies, said Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo.

Still, Russo said General Mills has been performing better in some of its challenged businesses, including cereal and yogurt.   Continued...