Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note issued on Monday.

According to Zacks, “Merck’s efforts to expand its pipeline and focus on core areas of expertise are encouraging. New products especially Keytruda should contribute meaningfully to the top-line. Merck has also been pursuing acquisitions and business development deals to boost its pipeline. Merck will also continue to look toward cost-cutting initiatives to drive the bottom-line. Investor focus will remain on the performance of the company’s hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment, Zepatier, label expansion of Keytruda and business development deals. Estimates have been mixed lately ahead of the company’s Q3 earnings release. The company has a positive record of earnings surprises in recent quarters. However, the top-line will remain under pressure mainly due to increased competition as well as generic competition. “

Several other brokerages have also recently weighed in on MRK. Vetr cut shares of Merck & Co. from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating and set a $64.84 price target on the stock. in a research report on Monday, October 10th. Jefferies Group boosted their price target on shares of Merck & Co. from $53.00 to $57.00 and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research report on Monday, August 8th. Deutsche Bank AG boosted their price target on shares of Merck & Co. from $58.00 to $59.00 and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research report on Monday, August 8th. Piper Jaffray Cos. reaffirmed a “neutral” rating and set a $62.00 price objective (up from $58.00) on shares of Merck & Co. in a research note on Monday, August 8th. Finally, Credit Suisse Group AG raised shares of Merck & Co. from a “neutral” rating to an “outperform” rating and lifted their price objective for the stock from $62.00 to $73.00 in a research note on Sunday, August 7th. Thirteen investment analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and nine have issued a buy rating to the company. The company has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of €65.58 ($72.10).

Analyst Recommendations for Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK)

Shares of Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) traded down 1.11% on Monday, reaching $61.45. 6,559,605 shares of the company’s stock traded hands. The stock has a 50-day moving average of $62.56 and a 200 day moving average of $58.70. The firm has a market cap of $169.92 billion, a P/E ratio of 33.71 and a beta of 0.68. Merck & Co. has a 12-month low of $47.97 and a 12-month high of $64.86.

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) last announced 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. Merck & Co. had a net margin of 13.01% and a return on equity of 23.41%. The company had revenue of $9.84 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $9.79 billion. During the same quarter in the previous year, the business posted $0.86 earnings per share. Merck & Co.’s quarterly revenue was up .6% on a year-over-year basis. On average, equities research analysts expect that Merck & Co. will post $3.75 earnings per share for the current year.

The business also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, October 7th. Stockholders of record on Thursday, September 15th were issued a dividend of $0.46 per share. The ex-dividend date was Tuesday, September 13th. This represents a $1.84 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.96%. Merck & Co.’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is currently 101.10%.

In other news, insider Weir Mirian M. Graddick sold 40,800 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Monday, October 3rd. The shares were sold at an average price of €62.07 ($68.25), for a total transaction of €2,532,456.00 ($2,784,448.60). Following the transaction, the insider now owns 128,973 shares in the company, valued at €8,005,354.11 ($8,801,928.65). The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is accessible through this hyperlink. Also, EVP Adam H. Schechter sold 39,200 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Thursday, September 1st. The shares were sold at an average price of €62.61 ($68.84), for a total transaction of €2,454,312.00 ($2,698,528.86). Following the transaction, the executive vice president now owns 39,200 shares in the company, valued at approximately €2,454,312 ($2,698,528.86). The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders own 0.05% of the company’s stock.

Several institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of MRK. Acrospire Investment Management LLC increased its position in 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 position in 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 position in Merck & Co. during the second quarter valued at about $115,000. NewSquare Capital LLC increased its position in 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. Finally, First New York Securities LLC NY bought a new position in Merck & Co. during the second quarter valued at about $121,000. Hedge funds and other 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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