Merck & Company, Inc. (NYSE:MRK) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note issued on Monday.

According to Zacks, “Merck has been pursuing acquisitions and business development deals to boost its pipeline. Merck has made significant progress with its pipeline and is working on bringing new products to the market. New products like Keytruda and Zepatier should continue to contribute meaningfully to the top line.  Keytruda uptake in first line lung cancer indication and potential label expansion – with FDA action pending on multiple regulatory applications – are catalysts for the stock in 2017. Merck will continue to focus on cost-cutting initiatives to drive the bottom line. Merck’s shares surpassed the large-cap pharma industry in the past one year. However, generic competition for several drugs and pricing pressure will continue to be overhangs on the top line. Rising competition in the immune-oncology market is also a significant concern.”

Several other analysts have also recently issued reports on the company. Sanford C. Bernstein restated a “market perform” rating on shares of Merck & Company in a research note on Friday, February 24th. Leerink Swann restated a “market perform” rating on shares of Merck & Company in a research note on Monday, March 20th. J P Morgan Chase & Co upped their price objective on Merck & Company from $74.00 to $76.00 and gave the company an “overweight” rating in a research note on Thursday, May 11th. Vetr upgraded Merck & Company from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $69.31 price target on the stock in a research report on Wednesday, March 8th. Finally, BMO Capital Markets increased their price target on Merck & Company from $68.00 to $70.00 and gave the stock an “outperform” rating in a research report on Thursday, May 11th. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, seven have issued a hold rating and eleven have assigned a buy rating to the company. Merck & Company currently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $69.22.

Analyst Recommendations for Merck & Company (NYSE:MRK)

Merck & Company (NYSE MRK) traded up 0.23% on Monday, reaching $64.54. The company had a trading volume of 2,026,905 shares. The stock has a 50 day moving average of $63.79 and a 200 day moving average of $63.03. Merck & Company has a 12 month low of $55.10 and a 12 month high of $66.80. The firm has a market capitalization of $176.53 billion, a PE ratio of 41.13 and a beta of 0.86.

Merck & Company (NYSE:MRK) last announced its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, May 2nd. The company reported $0.88 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.83 by $0.05. Merck & Company had a return on equity of 24.99% and a net margin of 15.32%. The firm had revenue of $9.43 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $9.25 billion. During the same quarter in the prior year, the firm posted $0.89 earnings per share. Merck & Company’s revenue for the quarter was up 1.3% compared to the same quarter last year. On average, analysts anticipate that Merck & Company will post $3.84 EPS for the current year.

The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Monday, July 10th. Investors of record on Thursday, June 15th will be issued a $0.47 dividend. This represents a $1.88 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.92%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Tuesday, June 13th. Merck & Company’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is 85.84%.

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In related news, EVP Adam H. Schechter sold 53,850 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, April 3rd. The stock was sold at an average price of $63.48, for a total value of $3,418,398.00. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through the SEC website. Also, Director C Robert Kidder sold 5,000 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, May 12th. The stock was sold at an average price of $63.54, for a total value of $317,700.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the director now directly owns 14,317 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $909,702.18. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Corporate insiders own 0.05% of the company’s stock.

A number of institutional investors have recently modified their holdings of MRK. Cullen Capital Management LLC raised its position in shares of Merck & Company by 2.3% in the third quarter. Cullen Capital Management LLC now owns 1,487,815 shares of the company’s stock worth $92,855,000 after buying an additional 32,745 shares during the last quarter. Gardiner Nancy B purchased a new position in shares of Merck & Company during the third quarter worth about $424,000. Cable Hill Partners LLC raised its position in shares of Merck & Company by 36.6% in the third quarter. Cable Hill Partners LLC now owns 8,329 shares of the company’s stock worth $522,000 after buying an additional 2,230 shares during the last quarter. Crow Point Partners LLC purchased a new position in shares of Merck & Company during the third quarter worth about $313,000. Finally, Quantitative Systematic Strategies LLC raised its position in shares of Merck & Company by 320.6% in the third quarter. Quantitative Systematic Strategies LLC now owns 51,515 shares of the company’s stock worth $3,193,000 after buying an additional 39,268 shares during the last quarter. 73.79% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

About Merck & Company

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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