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

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 research analysts have also recently commented on MRK. Barclays PLC boosted their target price on shares of Merck & Co. from $66.00 to $72.00 and gave the stock an “overweight” rating in a research report on Friday, September 9th. Jefferies Group boosted their target price 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. Morgan Stanley set a $60.00 target price on shares of Merck & Co. and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research report on Tuesday, September 13th. Sanford C. Bernstein reissued an “outperform” rating and set a $74.00 target price (up from $66.00) on shares of Merck & Co. in a research report on Thursday, August 11th. Finally, Vetr raised shares of Merck & Co. from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $66.07 target price on the stock in a research report on Tuesday, November 15th. Thirteen analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and nine have issued a buy rating to the company. Merck & Co. presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average price target of $66.24.

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

Shares of Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) traded down 0.10% on Thursday, reaching $61.64. 10,242,995 shares of the company’s stock traded hands. The stock has a market capitalization of $169.95 billion, a PE ratio of 31.48 and a beta of 0.76. Merck & Co. has a 52 week low of $47.97 and a 52 week high of $65.46. The company has a 50 day moving average of $61.68 and a 200-day moving average of $59.96.

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

The business also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Monday, January 9th. Investors of record on Thursday, December 15th will be issued a $0.47 dividend. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Tuesday, December 13th. This represents a $1.88 annualized dividend and a yield of 3.05%. This is an increase from Merck & Co.’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.46. Merck & Co.’s dividend payout ratio is presently 93.88%.

In related news, Director Rochelle B. Lazarus sold 20,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, November 2nd. The shares were sold at an average price of $59.06, for a total value of $1,181,200.00. Following the completion of the sale, the director now owns 9,594 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $566,621.64. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through the SEC website. Also, Chairman Kenneth C. Frazier sold 140,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Thursday, November 10th. The stock was sold at an average price of $65.03, for a total transaction of $9,104,200.00. Following the completion of the sale, the chairman now directly owns 514,957 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $33,487,653.71. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 0.05% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

A number of large investors have recently bought and sold shares of the company. Solaris Asset Management LLC increased its stake in shares of Merck & Co. by 3.8% in the third quarter. Solaris Asset Management LLC now owns 1,635 shares of the company’s stock worth $102,000 after buying an additional 60 shares during the last quarter. Blume Capital Management Inc. increased its stake in shares of Merck & Co. by 14.0% in the third quarter. Blume Capital Management Inc. now owns 1,710 shares of the company’s stock worth $107,000 after buying an additional 210 shares during the last quarter. Nelson Van Denburg & Campbell Wealth Management Group LLC increased its stake in shares of Merck & Co. by 1.8% in the third quarter. Nelson Van Denburg & Campbell Wealth Management Group LLC now owns 1,711 shares of the company’s stock worth $106,000 after buying an additional 30 shares during the last quarter. 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 worth $104,000 after buying an additional 100 shares during the last quarter. Finally, 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 worth $104,000 after buying an additional 1,000 shares during the last quarter. 73.25% of the stock is owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

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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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