Merck & Co Inc (MRK): Today's Featured Drugs Winner

Editor's Note: Any reference to TheStreet Ratings and its underlying recommendation does not reflect the opinion of TheStreet, Inc. or any of its contributors including Jim Cramer or Stephanie Link.

Merck ( MRK) pushed the Drugs industry higher today making it today's featured drugs winner. The industry as a whole closed the day down 3.1%. By the end of trading, Merck rose $0.55 (1.1%) to $52.53 on heavy volume. Throughout the day, 28,715,939 shares of Merck exchanged hands as compared to its average daily volume of 12,244,700 shares. The stock ranged in a price between $52.53-$54.10 after having opened the day at $52.86 as compared to the previous trading day's close of $51.98. Other companies within the Drugs industry that increased today were: ProPhase Labs ( PRPH), up 27.8%, Oramed Pharmaceuticals ( ORMP), up 21.9%, Mast Therapeutics ( MSTX), up 20.4% and Prana Biotechnology ( PRAN), up 7.8%.

Merck & Co., Inc. provides various health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, animal health, and consumer care products worldwide. Merck has a market cap of $150.8 billion and is part of the health care sector. The company has a P/E ratio of 34.6, above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Shares are up 3.9% year to date as of the close of trading on Friday. Currently there are 5 analysts that rate Merck a buy, 1 analyst rates it a sell, and 8 rate it a hold.

TheStreet Ratings rates Merck as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, good cash flow from operations, expanding profit margins and increase in stock price during the past year. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income.

On the negative front, Star Scientific ( STSI), down 23.0%, Cell Therapeutics ( CTIC), down 16.5%, Biocryst Pharmaceuticals ( BCRX), down 15.4% and Geron Corporation ( GERN), down 15.3% , were all laggards within the drugs industry with Biogen Idec ( BIIB) being today's drugs industry laggard.

For investors not wanting singular stock exposure, ETFs may be of interest. Investors who are bullish on the drugs industry could consider SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals ETF ( XPH) while those bearish on the drugs industry could consider ProShares UltraShort Nasdaq Biotech ( BIS).

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