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Why Merck (MRK) is a Top Value Stock for the Long-Term

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For new and old investors, taking full advantage of the stock market and investing with confidence are common goals. Zacks Premium provides lots of different ways to do both.

The research service features daily updates of the Zacks Rank and Zacks Industry Rank, full access to the Zacks #1 Rank List, Equity Research reports, and Premium stock screens, all of which will help you become a smarter, more confident investor.

It also includes access to the Zacks Style Scores.

What are the Zacks Style Scores?

The Zacks Style Scores, developed alongside the Zacks Rank, are complementary indicators that rate stocks based on three widely-followed investing methodologies; they also help investors pick stocks with the best chances of beating the market over the next 30 days.

Based on their value, growth, and momentum characteristics, each stock is assigned a rating of A, B, C, D, or F. The better the score, the better chance the stock will outperform; an A is better than a B, a B is better than a C, and so on.

The Style Scores are broken down into four categories:

Value Score

For value investors, it's all about finding good stocks at good prices, and discovering which companies are trading under their true value before the broader market catches on. The Value Style Score utilizes ratios like P/E, PEG, Price/Sales, Price/Cash Flow, and a host of other multiples to help pick out the most attractive and discounted stocks.

Growth Score

While good value is important, growth investors are more focused on a company's financial strength and health, and its future outlook. The Growth Style Score takes projected and historic earnings, sales, and cash flow into account to uncover stocks that will see long-term, sustainable growth.

Momentum Score

Momentum investors, who live by the saying "the trend is your friend," are most interested in taking advantage of upward or downward trends in a stock's price or earnings outlook. Utilizing one-week price change and the monthly percentage change in earnings estimates, among other factors, the Momentum Style Score can help determine favorable times to buy high-momentum stocks.

VGM Score

If you like to use all three kinds of investing, then the VGM Score is for you. It's a combination of all Style Scores, and is an important indicator to use with the Zacks Rank. The VGM Score rates each stock on their shared weighted styles, narrowing down the companies with the most attractive value, best growth forecast, and most promising momentum.

How Style Scores Work with the Zacks Rank

The Zacks Rank is a proprietary stock-rating model that harnesses the power of earnings estimate revisions, or changes to a company's earnings expectations, to help investors build a successful portfolio.

Investors can count on the Zacks Rank's success, with #1 (Strong Buy) stocks producing an unmatched +25.41% average annual return since 1988, more than double the S&P 500's performance. But the model rates a large number of stocks, and there are over 200 companies with a Strong Buy rank, plus another 600 with a #2 (Buy) rank, on any given day.

With more than 800 top-rated stocks to choose from, it can certainly feel overwhelming to pick the ones that are right for you and your investing journey.

That's where the Style Scores come in.

You want to make sure you're buying stocks with the highest likelihood of success, and to do that, you'll need to pick stocks with a Zacks Rank #1 or #2 that also have Style Scores of A or B. If you like a stock that only as a #3 (Hold) rank, it should also have Scores of A or B to guarantee as much upside potential as possible.

Since the Scores were created to work together with the Zacks Rank, the direction of a stock's earnings estimate revisions should be a key factor when choosing which stocks to buy.

Here's an example: a stock with a #4 (Sell) or #5 (Strong Sell) rating, even one with Style Scores of A and B, still has a downward-trending earnings outlook, and a bigger chance its share price will decrease too.

Thus, the more stocks you own with a #1 or #2 Rank and Scores of A or B, the better.

Stock to Watch: Merck (MRK - Free Report)

Based in Kenilworth, NJ, Merck & Co. boasts more than six blockbuster drugs in its portfolio with PD-L1 inhibitor, Keytruda, approved for several types of cancer, alone accounting for around 40% of its pharmaceutical sales. Keytruda has played an instrumental role in driving Merck’s steady revenue growth in the past few years. Though Keytruda may be Merck’s biggest strength and a solid reason to own the stock, it can also be argued that Merck is excessively dependent on the drug and should look for ways to diversify its product lineup.

MRK is a #3 (Hold) on the Zacks Rank, with a VGM Score of B.

It also boasts a Value Style Score of B thanks to attractive valuation metrics like a forward P/E ratio of 12.09; value investors should take notice.

Four analysts revised their earnings estimate higher in the last 60 days for fiscal 2022, while the Zacks Consensus Estimate has increased $0 to $7.28 per share. MRK also boasts an average earnings surprise of 13.4%.

With a solid Zacks Rank and top-tier Value and VGM Style Scores, MRK should be on investors' short list.


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