Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research note released on Friday.

According to Zacks, “Merck’s third-quarter results were strong, with the company beating on all fronts and slightly raising both its sales and earnings outlook for the year. The latest FDA approval of Keytruda for the first line treatment of metastatic lung cancer should sharply improve the drug’s sales. New products, especially Keytruda should continue to contribute meaningfully to the top line. Merck has also made significant progress with its pipeline and is working on bringing new products to the market. Merck will continue to focus on cost-cutting initiatives to drive the bottom line. The company has also been pursuing acquisitions and business development deals to boost its pipeline. However, generic competition and pricing pressure will continue to pressurize the top line. Nasonex and Cubicin lost patent exclusivity in 2016 which is hurting sales.”

A number of other equities research analysts also recently weighed in on MRK. Citigroup Inc. restated a neutral rating and set a $65.00 target price on shares of Merck & Co. in a research report on Wednesday, August 10th. BMO Capital Markets upgraded Merck & Co. from a market perform rating to an outperform rating and boosted their target price for the stock from $62.00 to $72.00 in a research report on Friday, August 5th. Morgan Stanley set a $60.00 target price on Merck & Co. and gave the stock a hold rating in a research report on Tuesday, September 13th. Bank of America Corp. upgraded Merck & Co. from a neutral rating to a buy rating and boosted their target price for the stock from $57.00 to $70.00 in a research report on Thursday, October 13th. Finally, Barclays PLC boosted their target price on Merck & Co. from $66.00 to $72.00 and gave the stock an overweight rating in a research report on Friday, September 9th. Thirteen analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and nine have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. Merck & Co. currently has a consensus rating of Hold and a consensus target price of $66.30.

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

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) traded up 0.19% during trading on Friday, hitting $61.99. The company had a trading volume of 1,368,356 shares. The firm has a 50-day moving average of $61.73 and a 200 day moving average of $59.76. Merck & Co. has a 12-month low of $47.97 and a 12-month high of $65.46. The company has a market capitalization of $170.91 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 31.66 and a beta of 0.76.

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) last posted its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, October 25th. The company reported $1.07 EPS for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.99 by $0.08. The company had revenue of $10.50 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $10.17 billion. Merck & Co. had a return on equity of 24.25% and a net margin of 13.76%. The business’s revenue was up 4.6% on a year-over-year basis. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm earned $0.96 earnings per share. On average, equities research analysts forecast that Merck & Co. will post $3.78 earnings per share for the current year.

In other news, insider Weir Mirian M. Graddick sold 40,800 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Monday, October 3rd. The shares were sold at an average price of $62.07, for a total transaction of $2,532,456.00. Following the completion of the sale, the insider now directly owns 128,973 shares in the company, valued at $8,005,354.11. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is accessible through the SEC website. Also, EVP Adam H. Schechter sold 39,200 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Thursday, September 1st. The stock was sold at an average price of $62.61, for a total transaction of $2,454,312.00. Following the sale, the executive vice president now owns 39,200 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $2,454,312. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Company insiders own 0.05% of the company’s stock.

Hedge funds have recently bought and sold shares of the company. Vanguard Group Inc. raised its stake in Merck & Co. by 1.9% in the second quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 174,819,694 shares of the company’s stock worth $10,071,362,000 after buying an additional 3,242,254 shares in the last quarter. BlackRock Institutional Trust Company N.A. raised its stake in Merck & Co. by 0.7% in the second quarter. BlackRock Institutional Trust Company N.A. now owns 74,363,785 shares of the company’s stock worth $4,284,098,000 after buying an additional 535,407 shares in the last quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp raised its stake in Merck & Co. by 2.2% in the third quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp now owns 56,714,385 shares of the company’s stock worth $3,539,544,000 after buying an additional 1,235,395 shares in the last quarter. BlackRock Fund Advisors raised its stake in Merck & Co. by 1.9% in the third quarter. BlackRock Fund Advisors now owns 45,572,909 shares of the company’s stock worth $2,844,205,000 after buying an additional 840,309 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Northern Trust Corp raised its stake in Merck & Co. by 1.1% in the third quarter. Northern Trust Corp now owns 36,237,082 shares of the company’s stock worth $2,261,555,000 after buying an additional 411,890 shares in the last quarter. Institutional investors own 73.25% 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.

5 Day Chart for NYSE:MRK

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