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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: General Motors, Boeing, Microsoft, Merck and UnitedHealth

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL –December 3, 2018 – 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: General Motors Company (GM - Free Report) , Boeing Company (BA - Free Report) , Microsoft Corporation (MSFT - Free Report) , Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK - Free Report) and UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s (UNH - Free Report) .

Here are highlights from Friday’s Analyst Blog:

Dow 30 Stock Roundup: GM, BA, MSFT and More

The Dow recovered from two weeks of losses to post strong gains last week. Multiple factors boosted the index, including comments from Larry Kudlow, which created optimism about a resolution to the U.S-China trade conflict.

Further, the Fed Chair adopted a relatively dovish tone on rates, boosting indexes higher. However, the index dipped toward the end of the week as hopes of a U.S.-China trade deal started to diminish.

Last Week’s Performance

The index gained 1.5% or 354.29 points on Monday, recording its biggest gain since Nov 7. The market rebound was led by a rally in retail stocks on expectations of robust spending on Cyber Monday.

Also, tech stocks rebounded after witnessing huge selloffs last week, while crude oil prices posted their biggest percentage jump in five months. Shares of General Motors Company gained 4.8%.

The index increased 0.4% on Tuesday after comments from U.S. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow raised hopes for a solution to the ongoing trade war with China. On Nov 27, Kudlow said the U.S. government has reopened negotiations on trade-related issues with China at several high powered levels.

Additionally, Kudlow stated that President Trump is hopeful that an amicable resolution to trade tensions can be reached during the upcoming G-20 summit. Despite a highly volatile trading session, U.S. stocks ended in the green for a second successive day with defensive stocks leading the gainers.

The index jumped 2.5% on Wednesday after Fed chair Jerome Powell indicated that key rates were close to a “neutral” level. Moreover, investors’ confidence on equities gathered steam following news that President Trump is looking for a way out to the ongoing trade disputes with China. Additionally, third-quarter GDP data confirmed robustness of the U.S. economy.

The index lost 0.1% on Thursday, ending its three-day winning streak as trade tensions resurfaced. The likely presence of White House advisor Peter Navarro at the dinner between presidents Trump and Xi on the sidelines of the G-20 summit diminished hopes of a trade deal between the United States and China.

Navarro is known for his adversarial stance on U.S.-China trade issues. Meanwhile, minutes of the latest Fed meeting more or less confirmed that a rate hike will take place in December. However, some officials did state that the federal funds rate was “near its neutral level,” in line with recent comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Components Moving the Index

The Boeing Company recently secured a $383.4 million modification contract for providing Protected Tactical Enterprise Service (PTES). The contract was awarded by the Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, CA.

This deal involves a joint ground platform that will offer tactically enhanced anti-jam satellite communications to war fighters in contested environments. Work related to the deal will be carried out in El Segundo and is expected get completed by Dec 31, 2025.

Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) Boeing will utilize fiscal 2018 and 2019 research, development, test and evaluation funds for the task. (Read: Boeing Wins $383M Protected Tactical Enterprise Service Deal)

Microsoft Corporation recently secured a U.S. army contract, worth $480 million. The robust augmented reality (AR) capabilities of HoloLens are anticipated to enable U.S. army soldiers to combat real-life challenging conditions. Microsoft has a Zacks Rank #2.

In a bid to provide headsets befitting the requirements to deal with both live combat and training purpose, HoloLens will be enhanced with thermal sensing, scrutinize concussions, hearing protection and night vision features, among others.

The U.S. army anticipates the contract winner to furnish at least 2,500 headsets over a two-year period, with a capacity of full-scale production. Per reports, the contract is likely to eventually lead to order of more than 100,000 HoloLens headsets.  (Read: Microsoft Secures Contract Worth $480M From U.S. Army)

Merck & Co., Inc. announced that the European Commission has approved two new HIV drugs — Pifeltro and Delstrigo — containing, doravirine, a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI), for the treatment of HIV-1 infection.

While Pifeltro is a once-daily single tablet containing doravirine to be taken in combination with other antiretroviral agents, Delstrigo is a once-daily fixed-dose combination regimen containing doravirine, lamivudine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate. In the EU, the drugs are indicated for the treatment of adults with HIV-1 infection without past or present evidence of resistance to the NNRTI class.

The approval was expected as in September, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Agency had given a positive opinion recommending approval of the two medicines. Pifeltro and Delstrigo are expected to be launched in the EU in the first half of 2019. The stock has a Zacks Rank #2. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s shares gained 2% on Nov 27 after the company reaffirmed its 2018 earnings guidance and gave earnings insights for 2019.

For 2019, UnitedHealth provided initial adjusted earnings per share (EPS) outlook of $14.40­-$14.70 (or $13.70-­$14.00 on a GAAP basis, including intangible amortization). The company also provided initial guidance $243­-$245 billion for revenues and $17.3­-$17.8 billion for cash flow from operations.

Moreover, Zacks Rank #2 UnitedHealth reiterated its expectations for 2018 adjusted EPS to “approach $12.80.” Management also expressed confidence in its long-term earnings growth outlook, reiterating its growth target of 13­16%. Two-thirds of this growth will be driven by earnings from operations and one-third from the application of capital.

The company expects membership growth in nearly all its business lines expect Part D Stand-Alone. Medicare Advantage is expected to see maximum growth in enrollment, as more baby boomers are reaching retirement age, pushing up demand for this service. (Read: UnitedHealth Gains on Strong 2019 Outlook, Acquisition News)

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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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