Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co. increased its position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) by 2.5% in the 3rd quarter, according to the company in its most recent 13F filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The fund owned 301,529 shares of the company’s stock after purchasing an additional 7,425 shares during the period. Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co.’s holdings in Merck & Co., Inc. were worth $21,391,000 as of its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A number of other large investors have also recently added to or reduced their stakes in MRK. Sterling Capital Management LLC increased its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 0.6% during the 3rd quarter. Sterling Capital Management LLC now owns 1,595,737 shares of the company’s stock worth $113,202,000 after acquiring an additional 10,175 shares during the period. Klingenstein Fields & Co. LLC increased its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 3.4% during the 3rd quarter. Klingenstein Fields & Co. LLC now owns 476,245 shares of the company’s stock worth $33,785,000 after acquiring an additional 15,765 shares during the period. Retirement Income Solutions Inc increased its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 10.3% during the 3rd quarter. Retirement Income Solutions Inc now owns 8,289 shares of the company’s stock worth $588,000 after acquiring an additional 775 shares during the period. Parallel Advisors LLC increased its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 4.2% during the 3rd quarter. Parallel Advisors LLC now owns 31,075 shares of the company’s stock worth $2,204,000 after acquiring an additional 1,263 shares during the period. Finally, Chase Investment Counsel Corp increased its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 14.7% during the 3rd quarter. Chase Investment Counsel Corp now owns 5,933 shares of the company’s stock worth $420,000 after acquiring an additional 762 shares during the period. 72.72% of the stock is owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

MRK has been the topic of a number of recent research reports. Zacks Investment Research lowered Merck & Co., Inc. from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Tuesday, October 16th. Barclays raised their price objective on Merck & Co., Inc. from $70.00 to $75.00 and gave the stock an “overweight” rating in a research note on Friday, September 7th. SunTrust Banks restated a “buy” rating and set a $77.00 price objective on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in a research note on Thursday, August 16th. Guggenheim initiated coverage on Merck & Co., Inc. in a research note on Monday, October 8th. They set a “buy” rating on the stock. Finally, Credit Suisse Group raised their price objective on Merck & Co., Inc. from $71.00 to $81.00 and gave the stock an “outperform” rating in a research note on Thursday, October 11th. Four analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and thirteen have issued a buy rating to the stock. The company has a consensus rating of “Buy” and an average price target of $73.65.

In related news, EVP Adam H. Schechter sold 277,879 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction on Thursday, November 1st. The stock was sold at an average price of $73.81, for a total transaction of $20,510,248.99. Following the sale, the executive vice president now owns 277,879 shares in the company, valued at approximately $20,510,248.99. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at this hyperlink. Also, EVP Adam H. Schechter sold 107,360 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction on Monday, September 17th. The stock was sold at an average price of $70.18, for a total value of $7,534,524.80. Following the sale, the executive vice president now owns 100,000 shares in the company, valued at approximately $7,018,000. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. In the last quarter, insiders sold 1,279,104 shares of company stock worth $92,845,846. Corporate insiders own 0.32% of the company’s stock.

Shares of MRK opened at $78.37 on Friday. Merck & Co., Inc. has a 52-week low of $52.83 and a 52-week high of $80.19. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.61, a quick ratio of 1.15 and a current ratio of 1.44. The firm has a market capitalization of $210.87 billion, a PE ratio of 19.69, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 2.13 and a beta of 0.71.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, October 25th. The company reported $1.19 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $1.14 by $0.05. Merck & Co., Inc. had a return on equity of 34.48% and a net margin of 8.44%. The company had revenue of $10.79 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $10.87 billion. Equities research analysts expect that Merck & Co., Inc. will post 4.34 earnings per share for the current year.

The firm also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Tuesday, January 8th. Stockholders of record on Monday, December 17th will be paid a $0.55 dividend. This is a positive change from Merck & Co., Inc.’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.48. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Friday, December 14th. This represents a $2.20 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.81%. Merck & Co., Inc.’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is presently 48.24%.

Merck & Co., Inc. announced that its Board of Directors has authorized a share repurchase program on Thursday, October 25th that permits the company to buyback $10.00 billion in outstanding shares. This buyback authorization permits the company to reacquire up to 5.1% of its stock through open market purchases. Stock buyback programs are often a sign that the company’s leadership believes its stock is undervalued.

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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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Institutional Ownership by Quarter for Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK)

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