Bank of America Corp. upgraded shares of Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) from a neutral rating to a buy rating in a research note released on Thursday morning. The brokerage currently has $70.00 target price on the stock, up from their previous target price of $57.00.

Other equities research analysts also recently issued research reports about the company. BMO Capital Markets downgraded Merck & Co. from an outperform rating to a market perform rating and set a $62.00 price target for the company. in a report on Monday, July 18th. They noted that the move was a valuation call. Sanford C. Bernstein reissued an outperform rating and issued a $74.00 price target (up previously from $66.00) on shares of Merck & Co. in a report on Thursday, August 11th. Credit Suisse Group AG reissued a hold rating and issued a $59.00 price target on shares of Merck & Co. in a report on Wednesday, July 13th. Piper Jaffray Cos. reissued a neutral rating and issued a $62.00 price target (up previously from $58.00) on shares of Merck & Co. in a report on Monday, August 8th. Finally, Citigroup Inc. reissued a neutral rating and issued a $65.00 price target on shares of Merck & Co. in a report on Wednesday, August 10th. Twelve equities research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and ten have assigned a buy rating to the stock. The stock currently has a consensus rating of Hold and a consensus target price of €65.05 ($72.28).

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) remained flat at $62.51 during midday trading on Thursday. 3,838,119 shares of the stock traded hands. The company has a market capitalization of $172.85 billion, a PE ratio of 34.29 and a beta of 0.68. Merck & Co. has a one year low of $47.97 and a one year high of $64.86. The firm’s 50 day moving average is $62.57 and its 200-day moving average is $58.63.

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Friday, July 29th. The company reported $0.93 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.91 by $0.02. The business earned $9.84 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $9.79 billion. Merck & Co. had a return on equity of 23.41% and a net margin of 13.01%. The company’s quarterly revenue was up .6% on a year-over-year basis. During the same quarter last year, the company earned $0.86 earnings per share. Equities research analysts anticipate that Merck & Co. will post $3.75 EPS for the current year.

The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, October 7th. Shareholders of record on Thursday, September 15th were issued a dividend of $0.46 per share. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Tuesday, September 13th. This represents a $1.84 annualized dividend and a yield of 2.94%. Merck & Co.’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is 101.10%.

In other Merck & Co. news, Chairman Kenneth C. Frazier sold 392,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, August 5th. The stock was sold at an average price of €61.81 ($68.68), for a total transaction of €24,229,520.00 ($26,921,688.89). Following the sale, the chairman now owns 760,877 shares in the company, valued at approximately €47,029,807.37 ($52,255,341.52). The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Also, EVP Adam H. Schechter sold 39,200 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Thursday, September 1st. The stock was sold at an average price of €62.61 ($69.57), for a total value of €2,454,312.00 ($2,727,013.33). Following the sale, the executive vice president now owns 39,200 shares in the company, valued at approximately €2,454,312 ($2,727,013.33). The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Company insiders own 0.05% of the company’s stock.

Large investors have recently modified their holdings of the company. Acrospire Investment Management LLC increased its stake in shares of Merck & Co. by 5.9% in the second quarter. Acrospire Investment Management LLC now owns 1,800 shares of the company’s stock valued at $104,000 after buying an additional 100 shares during the period. Roble Belko & Company Inc increased its stake in shares of Merck & Co. by 124.7% in the second quarter. Roble Belko & Company Inc now owns 1,802 shares of the company’s stock valued at $104,000 after buying an additional 1,000 shares during the period. Americafirst Capital Management LLC bought a new stake in shares of Merck & Co. during the second quarter valued at $115,000. First New York Securities LLC NY bought a new stake in shares of Merck & Co. during the second quarter valued at $121,000. Finally, NewSquare Capital LLC increased its stake in shares of Merck & Co. by 14.2% in the second quarter. NewSquare Capital LLC now owns 2,104 shares of the company’s stock valued at $121,000 after buying an additional 261 shares during the period. Institutional investors own 72.93% of the company’s stock.

About Merck & Co.

Merck & Co, Inc is a global healthcare company. The Company offers health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, which it markets directly and through its joint ventures. It operates through one segment, Pharmaceutical. The Company’s Pharmaceutical segment includes human health pharmaceutical and vaccine products marketed either directly by the Company or through joint ventures.

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