SunTrust Banks upgraded shares of Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research note published on Tuesday morning, MarketBeat.com reports. SunTrust Banks currently has $72.00 price objective on the stock, up from their previous price objective of $54.00. SunTrust Banks also issued estimates for Merck & Co., Inc.’s FY2018 earnings at $4.09 EPS, FY2019 earnings at $4.39 EPS, FY2020 earnings at $4.76 EPS and FY2021 earnings at $5.26 EPS.

Several other equities analysts have also issued reports on the company. Bank of America initiated coverage on Merck & Co., Inc. in a research report on Tuesday, November 28th. They issued a buy rating and a $64.00 price target for the company. BMO Capital Markets set a $70.00 price target on Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the stock a buy rating in a research report on Wednesday, October 18th. Sanford C. Bernstein reaffirmed a buy rating and issued a $64.00 price target on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in a research report on Wednesday, November 15th. Jefferies Group lowered Merck & Co., Inc. from a hold rating to an underperform rating in a research report on Wednesday, November 1st. Finally, Deutsche Bank decreased their target price on Merck & Co., Inc. from $62.00 to $59.00 and set a hold rating for the company in a research report on Friday, November 24th. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, ten have given a hold rating and eleven have issued a buy rating to the stock. The company currently has a consensus rating of Hold and a consensus target price of $67.06.

Shares of Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) traded up $0.15 during trading on Tuesday, reaching $61.28. The company’s stock had a trading volume of 12,160,000 shares, compared to its average volume of 13,120,000. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.57, a current ratio of 1.43 and a quick ratio of 1.16. The stock has a market capitalization of $167,130.00, a price-to-earnings ratio of 59.50, a P/E/G ratio of 3.10 and a beta of 0.76. Merck & Co., Inc. has a fifty-two week low of $53.63 and a fifty-two week high of $66.80.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) last announced its quarterly earnings data on Friday, October 27th. The company reported $1.11 EPS for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $1.03 by $0.08. The business had revenue of $10.33 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $10.54 billion. Merck & Co., Inc. had a return on equity of 27.08% and a net margin of 11.60%. The company’s revenue for the quarter was down 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. During the same quarter last year, the firm posted $1.07 earnings per share. equities analysts expect that Merck & Co., Inc. will post 3.95 EPS for the current year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Monday, January 8th. Shareholders of record on Friday, December 15th were given a $0.48 dividend. This is a positive change from Merck & Co., Inc.’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.47. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Thursday, December 14th. This represents a $1.92 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 3.13%. Merck & Co., Inc.’s payout ratio is 186.41%.

Merck & Co., Inc. announced that its board has initiated a share buyback plan on Tuesday, November 28th that permits the company to buyback $10.00 billion in shares. This buyback authorization permits the company to repurchase shares of its stock through open market purchases. Stock buyback plans are often an indication that the company’s leadership believes its stock is undervalued.

In other Merck & Co., Inc. news, insider Weir Mirian M. Graddick sold 5,000 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, January 12th. The stock was sold at an average price of $58.00, for a total transaction of $290,000.00. Following the completion of the sale, the insider now directly owns 101,484 shares in the company, valued at approximately $5,886,072. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is available at the SEC website. Also, insider Weir Mirian M. Graddick sold 60,000 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, January 16th. The shares were sold at an average price of $61.63, for a total value of $3,697,800.00. Following the sale, the insider now owns 101,484 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $6,254,458.92. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last 90 days, insiders have sold 82,500 shares of company stock valued at $5,039,175. Corporate insiders own 0.25% of the company’s stock.

Institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the business. Naples Global Advisors LLC grew its stake in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 14.6% during the 4th quarter. Naples Global Advisors LLC now owns 46,350 shares of the company’s stock valued at $2,608,000 after acquiring an additional 5,897 shares during the period. State of Alaska Department of Revenue grew its stake in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 393.9% during the 4th quarter. State of Alaska Department of Revenue now owns 296,820 shares of the company’s stock valued at $16,698,000 after acquiring an additional 236,717 shares during the period. Cordasco Financial Network grew its stake in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 20.2% during the 4th quarter. Cordasco Financial Network now owns 25,770 shares of the company’s stock valued at $1,450,000 after acquiring an additional 4,335 shares during the period. Jolley Asset Management LLC bought a new position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. during the 4th quarter valued at approximately $3,004,000. Finally, Lockheed Martin Investment Management Co. bought a new position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. during the 4th quarter valued at approximately $788,000. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 73.68% of the company’s stock.

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About Merck & Co., Inc.

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.

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

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