3 Stocks Reiterated As A Buy: MRK, KO, MO

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.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- TheStreet Ratings team reiterated 3 stocks with a buy rating on Tuesday based on 32 different data factors including general market action, fundamental analysis and technical indicators. The in-depth analysis of these ratings decisions goes as follows:

Merck & Co Inc:

Merck (NYSE: MRK) has been reiterated by TheStreet Ratings as a buy with a ratings score of A-. According to TheStreet Ratings team: The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, expanding profit margins, solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share and good cash flow from operations. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity.

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Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.56, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.23, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • The gross profit margin for MERCK & CO is currently very high, coming in at 89.02%. It has increased significantly from the same period last year. Regardless of the strong results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 16.61% trails the industry average.
  • The stock has not only risen over the past year, it has done so at a faster pace than the S&P 500, reflecting the earnings growth and other positive factors similar to those we have cited here. Looking ahead, the stock's rise over the last year has already helped drive it to a level which is relatively expensive compared to the rest of its industry. We feel, however, that the other strengths this company displays justify these higher price levels.
  • MERCK & CO has improved earnings per share by 9.6% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, MERCK & CO reported lower earnings of $1.46 versus $2.00 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($3.46 versus $1.46).
  • Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 5.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 3.8%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.

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 $166.0 billion and is part of the health care sector and drugs industry. Shares are up 13.5% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Friday.

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Coca-Cola Co:

Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) has been reiterated by TheStreet Ratings as a buy with a ratings score of B+. According to TheStreet Ratings team: The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its expanding profit margins, good cash flow from operations and notable return on equity. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself.

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Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The gross profit margin for COCA-COLA CO is rather high; currently it is at 65.87%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 15.30% is above that of the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 123.01% to $1,066.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, COCA-COLA CO has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -11.10%.
  • COCA-COLA CO's earnings per share declined by 7.7% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has suffered a declining pattern of earnings per share over the past year. However, we anticipate this trend reversing over the coming year. During the past fiscal year, COCA-COLA CO reported lower earnings of $1.90 versus $1.96 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.10 versus $1.90).
  • KO, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 2.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 4.2%. The declining revenue appears to have seeped down to the company's bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • The company's current return on equity has slightly decreased from the same quarter one year prior. This implies a minor weakness in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Beverages industry and the overall market, COCA-COLA CO's return on equity significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.

The Coca-Cola Company, a beverage company, manufactures and distributes coke, diet coke, and other soft drinks worldwide. The company primarily offers nonalcoholic beverages, including sparkling beverages and still beverages. Coca-Cola has a market cap of $178.4 billion and is part of the consumer goods sector and food & beverage industry. Shares are down 1.8% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Friday.

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Altria Group Inc:

Altria Group (NYSE: MO) has been reiterated by TheStreet Ratings as a buy with a ratings score of B+. According to TheStreet Ratings team: The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, good cash flow from operations, expanding profit margins, increase in stock price during the past year and notable return on equity. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income.

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Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 3.2%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 0.9%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $2,125.00 million or 18.51% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, ALTRIA GROUP INC has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -31.77%.
  • ALTRIA GROUP INC's earnings per share declined by 14.5% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, ALTRIA GROUP INC increased its bottom line by earning $2.26 versus $2.06 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.57 versus $2.26).
  • The gross profit margin for ALTRIA GROUP INC is rather high; currently it is at 57.41%. Despite the high profit margin, it has decreased significantly from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, MO's net profit margin of 29.31% compares favorably to the industry average.
  • Compared to where it was a year ago today, the stock is now trading at a higher level, regardless of the company's weak earnings results. The stock's price rise over the last year has driven it to a level which is somewhat expensive compared to the rest of its industry. We feel, however, that other strengths this company displays justify these higher price levels.

Altria Group, Inc., through its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells cigarettes, smokeless products, and wine in the United States and internationally. Altria Group has a market cap of $80.8 billion and is part of the consumer goods sector and tobacco industry. Shares are up 6% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Friday.

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