Merck & Co. (MRK) Upgraded to “Buy” at Zacks Investment Research

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research report issued on Tuesday. The firm currently has a $66.00 price objective on the stock. Zacks Investment Research‘s target price points to a potential upside of 11.07% from the stock’s current price.

According to Zacks, “Merck’s new products like Keytruda, Lynparza, and Bridion should continue to contribute meaningfully to the top line in 2018. Keytruda sales are gaining strong momentum with approval for additional indications especially in the first-line lung cancer setting. Animal Health unit is also strong and remains a core growth driver for Merck. Meanwhile, Merck will continue to focus on cost-cutting initiatives to drive the bottom line. However, generic competition for several drugs and pricing pressure will continue to be overhangs on the top line. Rising competitive pressure on the diabetes franchise and on products like Isentress (HIV), Zepatier (HCV) and Zostavax (vaccine) will remain headwinds in 2018. Merck’s shares have outperformed the industry this year so far. Estimate movement has been mixed ahead of the company’s Q1 earnings release. Merck has a positive record of earnings surprises in the recent quarters.”

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MRK has been the subject of a number of other research reports. ValuEngine upgraded Merck & Co. from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research note on Wednesday, January 10th. Barclays upgraded Merck & Co. from an “equal weight” rating to an “overweight” rating and increased their price target for the stock from $62.00 to $64.00 in a research note on Thursday, April 5th. SunTrust Banks upgraded Merck & Co. from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and increased their price target for the stock from $54.00 to $72.00 in a research note on Tuesday, January 16th. BMO Capital Markets reiterated a “buy” rating and issued a $65.00 price target on shares of Merck & Co. in a research note on Monday. Finally, Jefferies Group set a $56.00 price objective on Merck & Co. and gave the company a “hold” rating in a research report on Monday, February 26th. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, seven have assigned a hold rating and fifteen have issued a buy rating to the stock. The stock has an average rating of “Buy” and a consensus price target of $66.83.

MRK stock traded up $0.77 during trading on Tuesday, reaching $59.42. The company’s stock had a trading volume of 7,416,639 shares, compared to its average volume of 13,067,908. Merck & Co. has a 1 year low of $52.83 and a 1 year high of $66.41. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.62, a quick ratio of 1.06 and a current ratio of 1.33. The firm has a market capitalization of $154,141.17, a PE ratio of 14.90, a PEG ratio of 2.41 and a beta of 0.77.

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Friday, February 2nd. The company reported $0.98 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.94 by $0.04. Merck & Co. had a return on equity of 28.61% and a net margin of 6.40%. The business had revenue of $10.43 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $10.48 billion. During the same quarter in the prior year, the business posted $0.89 EPS. Merck & Co.’s revenue for the quarter was up 3.1% compared to the same quarter last year. sell-side analysts forecast that Merck & Co. will post 4.16 EPS for the current fiscal year.

In other news, Director Wendell P. Weeks sold 5,000 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, February 9th. The stock was sold at an average price of $53.57, for a total transaction of $267,850.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the director now owns 5,100 shares in the company, valued at $273,207. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available at the SEC website. Company insiders own 0.32% of the company’s stock.

Several large investors have recently made changes to their positions in the stock. Vanguard Group Inc. lifted its holdings in shares of Merck & Co. by 1.7% in the 2nd quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 194,144,317 shares of the company’s stock valued at $12,442,709,000 after acquiring an additional 3,312,459 shares during the last quarter. BlackRock Inc. lifted its holdings in shares of Merck & Co. by 1.0% in the 2nd quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 184,997,390 shares of the company’s stock valued at $11,856,484,000 after acquiring an additional 1,834,500 shares during the last quarter. Franklin Resources Inc. lifted its holdings in shares of Merck & Co. by 58.4% in the 4th quarter. Franklin Resources Inc. now owns 43,221,157 shares of the company’s stock valued at $2,432,154,000 after acquiring an additional 15,932,771 shares during the last quarter. Geode Capital Management LLC lifted its holdings in shares of Merck & Co. by 3.4% in the 4th quarter. Geode Capital Management LLC now owns 29,116,826 shares of the company’s stock valued at $1,634,999,000 after acquiring an additional 957,657 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Ameriprise Financial Inc. lifted its holdings in shares of Merck & Co. by 7.5% in the 3rd quarter. Ameriprise Financial Inc. now owns 23,515,877 shares of the company’s stock valued at $1,505,621,000 after acquiring an additional 1,631,013 shares during the last quarter. 74.60% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

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Merck & Co. Company Profile

Merck & Co, Inc provides healthcare solutions worldwide. It operates in four segments: Pharmaceutical, Animal Health, Healthcare Services, and Alliances. The company offers therapeutic and preventive agents to treat cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, asthma, nasal allergy symptoms, allergic rhinitis, chronic hepatitis C virus, HIV-1 infection, fungal, intra-abdominal infections, hypertension, arthritis and pain, inflammatory, osteoporosis, and fertility diseases.

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