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Merck (MRK) Q1 Earnings: Can the Stock Pull a Surprise?

Merck & Co. Inc. MRK is scheduled to report its first quarter 2016 earnings results on May 5, before the opening bell. Last quarter, Merck had posted a positive earnings surprise of 2.20%. Let’s see how things are shaping up for the company this quarter.

New Products to Pick Up Pace

Merck will continue to face headwinds in the form of genericization as well as unfavorable currency movement including the impact of the Venezuelan financial crisis.

However, new products should start contributing significantly from 2016 with performance being driven by products like Keytruda (cancer) and Zepatier (HCV). Strong uptake, launches in additional countries and expansion into additional indications should drive Keytruda sales.

Other recent product launches in Merck’s portfolio include Bridion (reversal of neuromuscular blockade) and Belsomra (insomnia). On the fourth quarter call, Merck had said that customer feedback on Bridion was positive.  

But, Belsomra, which had started on a good note, has been experiencing flattening scrips. Merck is working on driving Belsomra sales by enhancing its digital and online capabilities and is working with physicians as well.

Investors will also be focused on the performance of Merck’s DPP-4 inhibitor, Januvia, including the impact of pricing pressure and whether it is losing any share to SGLT2 inhibitors.

Merck is also working on driving Zostavax (vaccine) sales. On the fourth quarter call, Merck said that it continues to invest in direct-to-consumer advertising for the product and is working to educate customers on the reimbursement for Zostavax. Zostavax’s performance in the fourth quarter was disappointing due to a very weak flu season in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Remicade will continue to feel the pressure of biosimilar competition in Europe with sales expected to decline at a rapid pace through 2016. Volume share had declined to 85% in the fourth quarter from about 90% in the third quarter. With biosimilar business wins for new patients growing, Remicade share will continue declining.

Slowing growth of the integrase class and continued competitor dynamics in the U.S. and Europe will affect Isentress sales.

However, Merck’s cost-cutting efforts, share buybacks and other strategic initiatives should drive the bottom line.

Surprise History

Merck’s performance has been pretty impressive with the company beating earnings expectations consistently. The average earnings beat over the last four quarters is 7.13%.

Earnings Whispers?

Our proven model does not conclusively show that Merck is likely to beat estimates this quarter. That is because a stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), #2 (Buy) or #3 (Hold) to be able to beat earnings. That is not the case here as you will see below.

Zacks ESP: The Earnings ESP, which represents the difference between the Most Accurate estimate and the Zacks Consensus Estimate, is 0.00% since the Most Accurate estimate is in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate at 85 cents per share.

Zacks Rank: Merck carries a Zacks Rank #3. Merck’s Zacks Rank #3 when combined with an ESP of 0.00% makes surprise prediction difficult.

We caution against stocks with a Zacks Rank #4 and #5 (Sell-rated stocks) going into the earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions.

Stocks That Warrant a Look

Here are some health care stocks that you may want to consider, as our model shows that these have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this quarter.

Amicus Therapeutics, Inc. FOLD has an Earnings ESP of +2.86% and carries a Zacks Rank #3. It is scheduled to report first-quarter results on May 3.

The Earnings ESP for BIND Therapeutics, Inc. BIND is +7.14% and it carries a Zacks Rank #3. The company is expected to release first-quarter results on May 5.

Chiasma, Inc. CHMA has an Earnings ESP of +4.76% and carries a Zacks Rank #3. It is expected to report first-quarter results on Jun 13.

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Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report
MERCK & CO INC (MRK): Free Stock Analysis Report
AMICUS THERAPT (FOLD): Free Stock Analysis Report
BIND THERAPEUTC (BIND): Free Stock Analysis Report
CHIASMA INC (CHMA): Free Stock Analysis Report
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