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Merck, Provident: Ratings Changes

Stocks in this article: SEB PVX MRK Ratings provides exclusive stock, ETF and mutual fund ratings and commentary based on award-winning, proprietary tools. Its "safety first" approach to investing aims to reduce risk while seeking total return performance.

BOSTON ( TheStreet) --'s stock-rating model upgraded consumer lender EZCORP (EZPW - Get Report) to "buy."

The numbers: Fiscal third-quarter net income jumped 33% to $14 million and earnings per share climbed 16% to 29 cents, restrained by a higher share count. Revenue rose 37% to $148 million. Its operating margin fell below 15% and its net margin dipped below 10%. EZCORP holds $47 million of cash reserves, amounting to a strong quick ratio of 3.5. And a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.1 indicates minimal leverage.

The stock: EZCORP has dropped 21% this year, lagging behind major U.S. indices. The stock trades at a cheap price-to-earnings ratio of 9, but the company doesn't pay dividends.

The model upgraded drug maker Merck (MRK - Get Report) to "buy."

The numbers: Second-quarter net income fell 12% to $1.6 billion, or 74 cents a share, as revenue dropped 3% to $5.9 billion. Its operating margin increased from 26% to 28% and its net margin shrank from 29% to 26%. A quick ratio of 1.8 demonstrates ample liquidity and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.5 indicates conservative leverage. We give Merck a financial strength score of 8.9 out of 10, higher than the "buy"-list average.

The stock: Merck is up 2% this year, trailing behind major U.S. indices. The stock trades at a cheap price-to-earnings ratio of 12 and offers a 4.9% dividend yield, higher than the average of companies in the S&P 500 Index.

The model upgraded insurer Old Republic International (ORI - Get Report) to "hold."

The numbers: In the second quarter, the company lost $16 million, or 7 cents, down from a loss of $365 million, or $1.58, in the year-earlier period. Revenue increased 80% to $913 million. Its operating and net margins remained in negative territory, but the company's financial position improved. Its cash balance has grown 63% to $1 billion since last June. And its debt-to-equity ratio is low at 0.1.

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