Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a report released on Monday morning. The brokerage currently has $80.00 price target on the stock.

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 research analysts also recently commented on the stock. Barclays upped their price objective on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. from $70.00 to $75.00 and gave the company an overweight rating in a research note on Friday, September 7th. Morgan Stanley set a $74.00 price objective on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the company a buy rating in a research note on Thursday, August 23rd. SunTrust Banks reaffirmed a buy rating and set a $77.00 price objective on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in a research note on Thursday, August 16th. Bank of America upped their price objective on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. from $70.00 to $74.00 and gave the company a buy rating in a research note on Monday, July 30th. Finally, BMO Capital Markets reaffirmed a buy rating and set a $70.00 price objective on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in a research note on Sunday, July 22nd. Five investment analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and fifteen have assigned a buy rating to the company. Merck & Co., Inc. currently has an average rating of Buy and a consensus price target of $68.61.

NYSE MRK opened at $70.45 on Monday. Merck & Co., Inc. has a 12 month low of $52.83 and a 12 month high of $72.89. 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 stock has a market cap of $191.27 billion, a PE ratio of 17.70, a P/E/G ratio of 2.22 and a beta of 0.81.

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

The company also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, October 5th. Stockholders of record on Monday, September 17th were issued a dividend of $0.48 per share. This represents a $1.92 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 2.73%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Friday, September 14th. Merck & Co., Inc.’s payout ratio is currently 48.24%.

In other news, insider Sanat Chattopadhyay sold 29,208 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, August 3rd. The stock was sold at an average price of $65.20, for a total transaction of $1,904,361.60. Following the completion of the sale, the insider now owns 70,675 shares in the company, valued at approximately $4,608,010. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through the SEC website. Also, Chairman Kenneth C. Frazier sold 228,091 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, July 31st. The stock was sold at an average price of $65.00, for a total value of $14,825,915.00. Following the sale, the chairman now owns 938,788 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $61,021,220. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders have sold a total of 929,360 shares of company stock valued at $64,370,599 in the last quarter. Company insiders own 0.32% of the company’s stock.

Several large investors have recently modified their holdings of MRK. Clearwater Capital Advisors LLC purchased a new position in Merck & Co., Inc. in the 1st quarter worth approximately $103,000. SRS Capital Advisors Inc. boosted its holdings in Merck & Co., Inc. by 208.4% in the 1st quarter. SRS Capital Advisors Inc. now owns 1,983 shares of the company’s stock worth $108,000 after acquiring an additional 1,340 shares during the period. Taylor Wealth Management Partners purchased a new position in Merck & Co., Inc. in the 2nd quarter worth approximately $110,000. Creative Financial Designs Inc. ADV boosted its holdings in Merck & Co., Inc. by 155.2% in the 2nd quarter. Creative Financial Designs Inc. ADV now owns 1,832 shares of the company’s stock worth $111,000 after acquiring an additional 1,114 shares during the period. Finally, Well Done LLC purchased a new position in Merck & Co., Inc. in the 1st quarter worth approximately $115,000. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 72.18% of the company’s stock.

Merck & Co., Inc. Company Profile

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

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