Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a report published on Tuesday.

According to Zacks, “Merck’s new products like Keytruda, Lynparza, and Bridion should continue to drive sales. Keytruda sales are gaining strong momentum with approval for additional indications especially in the first-line lung cancer setting as it is the only anti-PD-1 approved in this setting. Animal Health unit is also strong and remains a core growth driver for Merck. Meanwhile, Merck will continue to focus on cost-cutting initiatives to drive the bottom line. However, generic competition for several drugs and pricing pressure will continue to be overhangs on the top line. Rising competitive pressure on the diabetes franchise and on products like Isentress (HIV), Zepatier (HCV) and Zostavax (vaccine) will remain headwinds. Merck’s shares have outperformed the industry this year so far. Estimates have gone up ahead of the company’s Q3 earnings release. Merck has a positive record of earnings surprises in the recent quarters.”

A number of other analysts have also weighed in on the stock. Morgan Stanley set a $74.00 price target on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the company a buy rating in a report on Thursday, August 23rd. SunTrust Banks reissued a buy rating and issued a $77.00 price target on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in a report on Thursday, August 16th. Barclays raised their price target on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. from $70.00 to $75.00 and gave the company an overweight rating in a report on Friday, September 7th. Jefferies Financial Group reissued a hold rating and issued a $59.00 price target on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in a report on Sunday, July 15th. Finally, Guggenheim assumed coverage on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in a report on Monday, October 8th. They issued a buy rating for the company. Six research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and fourteen have issued a buy rating to the company. The company presently has a consensus rating of Buy and an average price target of $70.24.

Shares of Merck & Co., Inc. stock opened at $71.22 on Tuesday. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.61, a current ratio of 1.33 and a quick ratio of 1.04. The company has a market capitalization of $191.27 billion, a P/E ratio of 17.89, a P/E/G ratio of 2.22 and a beta of 0.81. Merck & Co., Inc. has a fifty-two week low of $52.83 and a fifty-two week high of $72.89.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Friday, July 27th. The company reported $1.06 earnings per share for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.03 by $0.03. The business had revenue of $10.47 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $10.28 billion. Merck & Co., Inc. had a net margin of 3.67% and a return on equity of 32.68%. Merck & Co., Inc.’s revenue for the quarter was up 5.4% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same quarter last year, the business posted $1.01 earnings per share. Equities analysts predict that Merck & Co., Inc. will post 4.27 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, October 5th. Shareholders of record on Monday, September 17th were paid a $0.48 dividend. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Friday, September 14th. This represents a $1.92 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.70%. Merck & Co., Inc.’s payout ratio is presently 48.24%.

In other Merck & Co., Inc. news, Chairman Kenneth C. Frazier sold 279,850 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Tuesday, October 2nd. The shares were sold at an average price of $72.07, for a total value of $20,168,789.50. Following the transaction, the chairman now directly owns 971,800 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $70,037,626. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available through this hyperlink. Also, Chairman Kenneth C. Frazier sold 228,091 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Tuesday, July 31st. The shares were sold at an average price of $65.00, for a total transaction of $14,825,915.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the chairman now directly owns 938,788 shares in the company, valued at $61,021,220. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last ninety days, insiders sold 929,360 shares of company stock worth $64,370,599. Insiders own 0.32% of the company’s stock.

A number of hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in MRK. 6 Meridian boosted its position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 221.4% during the first quarter. 6 Meridian now owns 294,021 shares of the company’s stock worth $16,015,000 after purchasing an additional 202,534 shares in the last quarter. Rockefeller Capital Management L.P. bought a new position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. during the first quarter worth $22,398,000. Wilkins Investment Counsel Inc. boosted its position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 1.2% during the first quarter. Wilkins Investment Counsel Inc. now owns 217,215 shares of the company’s stock worth $11,832,000 after purchasing an additional 2,550 shares in the last quarter. Guyasuta Investment Advisors Inc. boosted its position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 13.5% during the first quarter. Guyasuta Investment Advisors Inc. now owns 73,671 shares of the company’s stock worth $4,013,000 after purchasing an additional 8,737 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Trillium Asset Management LLC boosted its position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 3.7% during the first quarter. Trillium Asset Management LLC now owns 447,901 shares of the company’s stock worth $24,398,000 after purchasing an additional 16,031 shares in the last quarter. 72.18% of the stock is currently owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

About Merck & Co., Inc.

Merck & Co, Inc provides healthcare solutions worldwide. It operates in four segments: Pharmaceutical, Animal Health, Healthcare Services, and Alliances. The company offers therapeutic and preventive agents to treat cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, asthma, nasal allergy symptoms, allergic rhinitis, chronic hepatitis C virus, HIV-1 infection, fungal, intra-abdominal infections, hypertension, arthritis and pain, inflammatory, osteoporosis, and fertility diseases.

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