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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Merck, Citigroup, AstraZeneca, HSBC and Sprint

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – August 03, 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 Merck (NYSE:(MRK - Free Report)  Free Report), Citigroup (NYSE:(C - Free Report)  Free Report), AstraZeneca (NYSE:(AZN - Free Report)  Free Report), HSBC (NYSE:(HSBC - Free Report)  Free Report) and Sprint (NYSE:(S - Free Report)  Free Report).

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Here are highlights from Wednesday’s Analyst Blog:

Top Research Reports for Merck, Citigroup and AstraZeneca

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 Merck (NYSE:(MRK - Free Report) Free Report), Citigroup (NYSE:(C - Free Report) Free Report) and AstraZeneca (NYSE:(AZN - 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 >>>

Merck shares have outperformed the Zacks Large Cap Pharmaceuticals industry over the last year, gaining +10.6% versus the industry’s -1.9% decline. This momentum reflects the progress it has made with product pipeline. Merck beat estimates for both earnings and sales in the second quarter, backed primarily by strong sales of PD-1 inhibitor, Keytruda.

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.

However, generic competition for several drugs and pricing pressure will continue to overhang on the top line. 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 >>>).

Shares of Citigroup shares have outperformed the Zacks Major Banks industry over the last six months, gaining +20.4% vs +5%. The company’s second-quarter 2017 earnings outpaced expectations riding on higher revenues. However, expenses and costs of credit escalated. The Fed’s recent approval to the company's 2017 capital plan also remains encouraging.

Moreover, the recently approved Financial Choice Act will act as a tailwind for the company in coming quarters. However, several issues including Citigroup’s litigation pressures are cause for concern. Moreover, in spite of rising rates, margin is under pressure, due to persistent decline in the company’s legacy holdings portfolio.

The Zacks analyst likes the company’s restructuring and streamlining efforts, strategic investments in core business and expense management, which should support profitability, going forward.

(You can read the full research report on Citigroup here >>>).

AstraZeneca’s shares have gained +10.3% year to date, underperforming the Zacks Large Cap Pharmaceuticals sector which has gained +10.5% over the same period. Despite doing well this year, the stock plunged sharply after the company announced the failure of a pivotal first-line lung cancer study (MYSTIC) on Imfinzi. AstraZeneca’s second quarter results were mixed with earnings beating estimates but sales remaining in line.

Core products like Nexium and Crestor are facing generic competition, which is hurting sales growth. However, AstraZeneca’s newer drugs like Tagrisso and Brilinta should keep contributing to the top line. Meanwhile, cost-cutting initiatives should drive the bottom line.

AstraZeneca also has a promising late-stage pipeline that includes immuno-oncology candidates. Imfinzi’s approval in May 2017 for bladder cancer was encouraging. The Zacks analyst is enthused by the fact that the company expects a lot of activity on the regulatory and pipeline front in the second half of 2017.

(You can read the full research report on AstraZeneca here >>>).

Other noteworthy reports we are featuring today include HSBC (NYSE:(HSBC - Free Report) Free Report) and Sprint (NYSE:(S - 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 information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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