Merck & Company, Inc. (NYSE:MRK) saw some unusual options trading activity on Thursday. Stock investors purchased 9,467 put options on the company. This is an increase of approximately 318% compared to the typical volume of 2,264 put options.

Hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in the business. Klingenstein Fields & Co. LLC lifted its stake in Merck & by 5.4% in the first quarter. Klingenstein Fields & Co. LLC now owns 446,450 shares of the company’s stock valued at $28,368,000 after acquiring an additional 22,958 shares during the last quarter. First PREMIER Bank lifted its stake in Merck & by 2.7% in the first quarter. First PREMIER Bank now owns 21,475 shares of the company’s stock valued at $1,364,000 after acquiring an additional 570 shares during the last quarter. Agran Libbie lifted its stake in Merck & by 83.0% in the first quarter. Agran Libbie now owns 11,918 shares of the company’s stock valued at $757,000 after acquiring an additional 5,404 shares during the last quarter. Stevens Capital Management LP acquired a new stake in Merck & in the first quarter valued at $15,126,000. Finally, Doyle Wealth Management acquired a new stake in Merck & in the first quarter valued at $4,652,000. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 73.02% of the company’s stock.

Merck & (MRK) opened at 63.83 on Tuesday. Merck & has a one year low of $58.29 and a one year high of $66.80. The company has a 50-day moving average of $62.82 and a 200 day moving average of $63.76. The company has a market cap of $174.09 billion, a P/E ratio of 34.56 and a beta of 0.81.

Merck & (NYSE:MRK) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Friday, July 28th. The company reported $1.01 EPS for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.87 by $0.14. The firm had revenue of $9.93 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $9.75 billion. Merck & had a net margin of 17.14% and a return on equity of 26.02%. The company’s revenue for the quarter was up .9% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same quarter last year, the company posted $0.93 earnings per share. Equities research analysts predict that Merck & will post $3.88 EPS for the current year.

The company also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, October 6th. Shareholders of record on Friday, September 15th will be paid a $0.47 dividend. This represents a $1.88 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.95%. The ex-dividend date is Thursday, September 14th. Merck &’s dividend payout ratio is currently 76.11%.

A number of equities research analysts have issued reports on MRK shares. Zacks Investment Research raised shares of Merck & from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $72.00 target price for the company in a research note on Wednesday, May 10th. J P Morgan Chase & Co lifted their target price on shares of Merck & from $74.00 to $76.00 and gave the company an “overweight” rating in a research note on Thursday, May 11th. BidaskClub lowered shares of Merck & from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a research note on Tuesday, July 11th. BMO Capital Markets lifted their target price on shares of Merck & from $68.00 to $70.00 and gave the company an “outperform” rating in a research note on Thursday, May 11th. Finally, Vetr raised shares of Merck & from a “sell” rating to a “strong-buy” rating and set a $71.50 target price for the company in a research note on Monday, May 15th. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, nine have assigned a hold rating and twelve have assigned a buy rating to the company. The company presently has a consensus rating of “Hold” and an average price target of $69.74.

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About Merck &

Merck & Co, Inc is a global healthcare company. The Company offers health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products. It operates through four segments: Pharmaceutical, Animal Health, Healthcare Services and Alliances. 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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