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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Facebook, Verizon, Merck, Pepsi and HCA Healthcare

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – July 17, 2017 – announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include Facebook (NASDAQ: (FB - Free Report) Free Report ), Verizon (NYSE: (VZ - Free Report) Free Report ), Merck (NYSE: (MRK - Free Report) Free Report ), Pepsi (NYSE: (PEP - Free Report) Free Report ) and HCA Healthcare (NYSE: (HCA - Free Report) Free Report ).

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free .

Here are highlights from Friday’s Analyst Blog:

Top Research Reports for Monday: Facebook, Verizon, Merck

The Zacks Research Daily presents the best research output of our analyst team. Today's Research Daily features new research reports on 16 major stocks, including Facebook (NASDAQ: (FB - Free Report) Free Report ), Verizon (NYSE:(VZ - Free Report) Free Report ) and Merck (NYSE:(MRK - Free Report) Free Report ). These research reports have been hand-picked from the roughly 70 reports published by our analyst team today. You can see all of today’s research reports here >>>

Facebook ’s shares have outperformed the S&P 500 index over the last one year, gaining +35.8% vs. +13.1%. Apart from mobile and video, the potential for monetization of its Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and Oculus assets, a huge user base and room for higher engagement levels remain at the core of the company's attractive fundamentals.

Longer term, Facebook's investments in augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies also remain promising. On the flip side, Facebook has stated that revenues will now face tougher year-over-year comparisons. Stiffening competition for ad dollars is another major concern. (You can read the full research report on Facebook here >>> ).

Shares of Verizon have been laggards over the past year -- the stock is down -22.1% over the past 12 months vs. AT&T's -15.6% decline and the +13% gain for the S&P 500 index. Verizon's underperformance reflects the market's concerns about the company's muddled strategy in the digital media domain and rising competitive pressures in its core U.S. wireless business.

The Yahoo purchase, as well as other previously acquired digital properties like AOL, Huffington Post will boost its digital media suite. The long-term expectation is that these assets will give it a sizable enough platform to capture digital marketing dollars. The jury is still out on the long-term viability of these efforts, but the company is also trying to be a player in the online TV streaming space and defend its leadership position in the wireless market through 5G wireless network trials.

However, a full-phased 5G wireless network will be offered only in 2020.The company's dividend appears safe (currently yields more than 5%), but the inherent capital intensity of its core business and the need for purchases on the digital side ends up eating up more than it generates in its operations. In the updated research report issued today, the Zacks analyst discusses the pros and cons of investing in Verizon shares at present. (You can read the full research report on Verizon here >>> ).

Buy-rated Merck’s shares have outperformed the Large Cap Pharmaceuticals industry over the last one year, gaining +5.4% versus the industry’s -1.1% decline. This momentum reflects the progress it has made with product pipeline.

While generic competition for several drugs and pricing pressures as are material in the Merck story as they are for many of its peers, the Zacks analyst points out that the company's new products like Keytruda and Zepatier hold great potential. Also, Merck will continue to focus on cost-cutting initiatives to drive the bottom line.

Estimates have remained stable ahead of the company’s Q2 earnings release. Merck has a positive record of earnings surprises in the recent quarters. The Zacks analyst discusses all of these issues in the updated research report issued today. (You can read the full research report on Merck here >>> ).

Other noteworthy reports we are featuring today include Pepsi (NYSE: (PEP - Free Report) Free Report ) and HCA Healthcare (NYSE: (HCA - Free Report) Free Report ).

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Strong Stocks that Should Be in the News

Many are little publicized and fly under the Wall Street radar. They're virtually unknown to the general public. Yet today's 220 Zacks Rank #1 "Strong Buys" were generated by the stock-picking system that has nearly tripled the market from 1988 through 2015. Its average gain has been a stellar +26% per year. See these high-potential stocks free >>.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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