The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

(

^DJI

) is trading up 91 points (+0.7%) at 12,260 as of Friday, Dec 23, 2011, 1:35 p.m. ET. During this time, 314.8 million shares of the 30 Dow components have changed hands vs. an average daily trading volume of 881.6 million. The NYSE advances/declines ratio sits at 1,898 issues advancing vs. 1,033 declining with 123 unchanged.

The Dow component leading the way higher looks to be

Merck

(NYSE:

MRK

), which is sporting a 28-cent gain (+0.8%) bringing the stock to $37.84. This single gain is lifting the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 2.12 points or roughly accounting for 2.3% of the Dow's overall gain. Volume for Merck currently sits at 6.1 million shares traded vs. an average daily trading volume of 17.9 million shares.

Merck has a market cap of $113.78 billion and is part of the

health care

sector and

drugs

industry. Shares are up 4.2% year to date as of Thursday's close. The stock's dividend yield sits at 4.5%.

Merck & Co., Inc. provides various health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, animal health, and consumer care products. The company has a P/E ratio of 27.2, above the average drugs industry P/E ratio of 27.1 and above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7.

TheStreet Ratings rates Merck as a

buy

. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, increase in net income, good cash flow from operations and growth in earnings per share. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity.

null