3 Stocks Reiterated As A Buy: PCLN, AAPL, MRK

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 Thursday 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:

Priceline Group Inc:

Priceline Group (Nasdaq: PCLN) 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 robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, notable return on equity, expanding profit margins and good cash flow from operations. Although no company is perfect, currently we do not see any significant weaknesses which are likely to detract from the generally positive outlook.

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Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 7.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 26.4%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • Although PCLN's debt-to-equity ratio of 0.23 is very low, it is currently higher than that of the industry average. Along with this, the company maintains a quick ratio of 5.32, which clearly demonstrates the ability to cover short-term cash needs.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Internet & Catalog Retail industry and the overall market, PRICELINE GROUP INC's return on equity significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for PRICELINE GROUP INC is currently very high, coming in at 88.67%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 27.14% significantly outperformed against the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $689.98 million or 16.27% when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of 0.77%.

The Priceline Group Inc. operates as an online travel company. Priceline Group has a market cap of $67.0 billion and is part of the services sector and diversified services industry. Shares are up 8.5% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

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Apple Inc:

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) 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 revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, notable return on equity, expanding profit margins and solid stock price performance. Although no company is perfect, currently we do not see any significant weaknesses which are likely to detract from the generally positive outlook.

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Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 9.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 6.0%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • Although AAPL's debt-to-equity ratio of 0.26 is very low, it is currently higher than that of the industry average. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.18, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. When compared to other companies in the Computers & Peripherals industry and the overall market, APPLE INC's return on equity exceeds that of the industry average and significantly exceeds that of the S&P 500.
  • 44.56% is the gross profit margin for APPLE INC which we consider to be strong. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 20.69% is above that of the industry average.
  • Investors have apparently begun to recognize positive factors similar to those we have mentioned in this report, including earnings growth. This has helped drive up the company's shares by a sharp 40.15% over the past year, a rise that has exceeded that of the S&P 500 Index. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, AAPL should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.

Apple Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiaries design, manufacture, and market mobile communication and media devices, personal computers, and portable digital music players worldwide. Apple has a market cap of $604.1 billion and is part of the consumer goods sector and consumer durables industry. Shares are up 27.4% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

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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 solid stock price performance, increase in net income, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, reasonable valuation levels and growth in earnings per share. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow.

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Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Compared to where it was a year ago today, the stock is now trading at a higher level, reflecting both the market's overall trend during that period and the fact that the company's earnings growth has been robust. Looking ahead, unless broad bear market conditions prevail, we still see more upside potential for this stock, despite the fact that it has already risen over the past year.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Pharmaceuticals industry. The net income increased by 121.2% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $906.00 million to $2,004.00 million.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.48, 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 1.14, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • MERCK & CO reported significant earnings per share improvement 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 ($3.50 versus $1.46).

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 $173.7 billion and is part of the health care sector and drugs industry. Shares are up 20.4% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

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