Updated from 7:56 a.m. EDTA strong second-quarter performance has encouraged Merck ( MRK) to raise its full-year earnings projection for the second time this year. The drugmaker said Monday that its full-year earnings should be in the range of $2.40 to $2.48 a share, up from a range of $2.32 to $2.40. The average Wall Street estimate is $2.40. Merck's prediction excludes one-time items and the cost of establishing reserves for potential liabilities from lawsuits against the arthritis drug Vioxx. Three months ago, Merck raised the full-year forecast to a range of $2.32 to $2.40 from a prediction of $2.28 to $2.36, thanks to a first-quarter performance that beat estimates by 8 cents a share. For the second quarter, Merck's EPS, excluding one-time items, was 73 cents, or 8 cents better than the consensus of analysts polled by Thomson First Call. Revenue of $5.77 billion beat the average estimate of $5.46 billion. "The results demonstrate that we can deliver growth while we make the fundamental changes necessary to return Merck to an industry leadership position," said Richard Clark, the chief executive. For Merck's stock, the news was good enough to lift it to its best level since September 2004, in the days before it pulled Vioxx from the market. Lately, its shares were up $1.39, or 3.7%, to $38.75. On a GAAP basis, Merck earned $1.5 billion, or 69 cents a share, for the three months ended June 30. For the same period last year, Merck earned $720.6 million, or 33 cents a share, on sales of $5.47 billion. Analysts continue to forecast a big dropoff in Merck's profit and sales for the third and fourth quarters because the cholesterol drug Zocor has lost its U.S. patent protection. Last year, Zocor contributed $4.38 billion in sales, but this year Merck is predicting only $2.6 billion to $2.9 billion.