Traders bought shares of Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) on weakness during trading hours on Thursday. $182.21 million flowed into the stock on the tick-up and $93.11 million flowed out of the stock on the tick-down, for a money net flow of $89.10 million into the stock. Of all companies tracked, Merck & Co., Inc. had the 23rd highest net in-flow for the day. Merck & Co., Inc. traded down ($0.57) for the day and closed at $54.12

A number of brokerages have weighed in on MRK. Leerink Swann raised Merck & Co., Inc. from a “market perform” rating to an “outperform” rating in a research report on Monday, March 12th. BMO Capital Markets set a $65.00 target price on Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Thursday, March 8th. Jefferies Group set a $56.00 target price on Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the company a “hold” rating in a research report on Monday, February 26th. Credit Suisse Group decreased their target price on Merck & Co., Inc. from $66.00 to $65.00 and set an “outperform” rating for the company in a research report on Wednesday, February 14th. Finally, DZ Bank raised Merck & Co., Inc. from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research report on Tuesday, February 13th. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, ten have assigned a hold rating and twelve have assigned a buy rating to the company’s stock. Merck & Co., Inc. presently has a consensus rating of “Hold” and a consensus target price of $66.41.

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The stock has a market capitalization of $147,319.81, a price-to-earnings ratio of 58.19, a PEG ratio of 2.20 and a beta of 0.81. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.62, a quick ratio of 1.06 and a current ratio of 1.33.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) last announced its earnings results on Friday, February 2nd. The company reported $0.98 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.94 by $0.04. Merck & Co., Inc. had a return on equity of 28.61% and a net margin of 6.40%. The firm had revenue of $10.43 billion for the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $10.48 billion. During the same period in the previous year, the business earned $0.89 EPS. The firm’s revenue for the quarter was up 3.1% on a year-over-year basis. equities research analysts expect that Merck & Co., Inc. will post 4.17 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, April 6th. Investors of record on Thursday, March 15th will be paid a dividend of $0.48 per share. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Wednesday, March 14th. This represents a $1.92 annualized dividend and a yield of 3.55%. Merck & Co., Inc.’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is 206.45%.

Merck & Co., Inc. declared that its Board of Directors has authorized a stock buyback program on Tuesday, November 28th that allows the company to buyback $10.00 billion in outstanding shares. This buyback authorization allows the company to purchase shares of its stock through open market purchases. Stock buyback programs are generally an indication that the company’s board of directors believes its shares are undervalued.

In related news, EVP Michael J. Holston sold 12,500 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction on Tuesday, January 16th. The stock was sold at an average price of $61.63, for a total transaction of $770,375.00. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which can be accessed through the SEC website. Also, Director Wendell P. Weeks sold 5,000 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction on Friday, February 9th. The stock was sold at an average price of $53.57, for a total value of $267,850.00. Following the transaction, the director now owns 5,100 shares in the company, valued at $273,207. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last 90 days, insiders have sold 82,500 shares of company stock worth $5,026,025. 0.25% of the stock is owned by company insiders.

A number of hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in the stock. Santori & Peters Inc. purchased a new stake in Merck & Co., Inc. during the 4th quarter valued at about $110,000. Stevens First Principles Investment Advisors grew its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 79.3% during the 4th quarter. Stevens First Principles Investment Advisors now owns 2,080 shares of the company’s stock valued at $117,000 after purchasing an additional 920 shares during the last quarter. Balentine LLC grew its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 1.0% during the 2nd quarter. Balentine LLC now owns 2,107 shares of the company’s stock valued at $135,000 after purchasing an additional 20 shares during the last quarter. Risk Paradigm Group LLC grew its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 748.1% during the 2nd quarter. Risk Paradigm Group LLC now owns 2,256 shares of the company’s stock valued at $145,000 after purchasing an additional 1,990 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Avestar Capital LLC purchased a new stake in Merck & Co., Inc. during the 4th quarter valued at about $130,000. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 74.60% 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.

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