Updated from 9:09 a.m. ESTMerck ( MRK) said fourth quarter earnings met analysts' expectations and the big drug seller from New Jersey affirmed its profit targets for the full year. Sales for the quarter rose even though the cholesterol drug Zocor continued to be clobbered by generic competition. Earnings were affected by higher marketing and administrative expenses associated with the rollout of new products, including three vaccines and the diabetes drug Januvia. Excluding one-time items, Merck earned 50 cents a share for the quarter ended Dec. 31.Worldwide sales were $6.04 billion for the quarter, an increase of 5% from the fourth quarter of 2005 and easily ahead of expectations for $5.37 billion. "These results clearly set the stage for our performance in 2007, as well as continued progress toward our long-term financial targets," said Richard T. Clark, the chairman and CEO. When charges are included, Merck earned $473.9 million, or 22 cents a share, down 58% from a profit of $1.12 billion, or 51 cents, for the same period in 2005. Charges in the most recent quarter included $466 million related to acquiring Sirna Therapeutics and $56 million for restructuring, including the cutting of 900 jobs. Merck says it's on schedule for reducing its payroll by 7,000 by the end of 2008. So far, 4,800 people have lost their jobs.