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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Walmart, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Merck and Microsoft

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – February 25, 2019 – 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: Walmart Inc. (WMT - Free Report) , Pfizer Inc. (PFE - Free Report) , Eli Lilly and Company (LLY - Free Report) , Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK - Free Report) and Microsoft Corporation (MSFT - Free Report) .

Here are highlights from Tuesday’s Analyst Blog:

Dow 30 Stock Roundup: WMT, MRK & More

 The index endured a holiday-shortened but volatile week. Optimism about a resolution increased among investors as a fresh round of trade talks between the United States and China started in Washington. Investors were also buoyed by indications from the Fed that the process of balance sheet unwinding could end soon. However, indications of a global slowdown kept investors worried.

Last Week’s Performance

Markets were closed on Monday for the President’s Day holiday. The index inched up 0.03% on Tuesday as another round of U.S.-China trade talks kickstarted in Washington this week. Market watchers largely expect positive outcomes from the meeting.

Meanwhile, a group of U.S. states filed lawsuits against Trump’s declaration of national emergency over the border wall funding. Gains for the Dow were buoyed by a bump of 2.2% in shares of Walmart Inc.. The company posted an earnings beat in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019.

The index gained 0.2% on Wednesday after the release of the minutes from Fed’s last meeting held in January. The Fed remained undecided on the future of rate hikes in the country.

However, the minutes indicated that Fed’s balance sheet unwinding might end by the end of this year. Meanwhile, trade talks between the United States and China continued in Washington. The index lost 0.4% on Thursday after dismal economic data emanating from Europe and Japan indicated a slowdown in global growth.

However, concerns over a global slowdown were curbed to an extent as trade talks between the United States and China progressed. The two sides are in the process of hammering out an agreement to end this lingering conflict. 

Components Moving the Index

Pfizer Inc. and Eli Lilly and Company announced that a higher dose of their NGF inhibitor, tanezumab, met the primary endpoint in a phase III study, evaluating it in patients with chronic low back pain (“CLBP”). Pfizer has a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

The phase III study evaluated two dosages – 5 mg or 10 mg – of tanezumab, a non-opioid candidate, subcutaneously administered every eight weeks for 56 weeks in patients with moderate-to-severe CLBP, followed by 24-week safety follow-up period. The eligible patients experienced inadequate relief or are intolerant to analgesics and suffering from the disease for more than three consecutive months.

Top-line data from the study showed that treatment with the 10 mg dose of tanezumab led to statistically significant improvement in pain compared to placebo after 16 weeks of treatment. (Read: Pfizer & Lilly's Pain Candidate Succeeds in Back Pain Study)

Merck & Co., Inc. announced that the FDA has granted priority review to yet another supplemental biologics license application (sBLA) for its PD-L1 inhibitor, Keytruda. In the latest sBLA, Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) Merck is looking for FDA’s approval of Keytruda as monotherapy for advanced small cell lung cancer ("SCLC") in third or later-line setting. With the FDA granting priority review, a decision is expected on Jun 17, 2019.

The sBLA filing was based on data from the SCLC cohorts of the phase II KEYNOTE-158 study as well as supporting data from an early stage study — KEYNOTE-028.

Data from the KEYNOTE-158 study, presented in June 2018, showed that treatment with Keytruda achieved overall response rate of 18.7% with 3% complete response in patients whose disease progressed after two or more lines of prior therapy. The median progression-free survival was 2 months and median overall survival was 8.7 months. (Read: Merck Gets Priority Review for Keytruda in Third-Line SCLC)

Walmart’s fourth-quarter fiscal 2019 adjusted earnings came in at $1.41 per share, which came way ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.33. Further, earnings improved about 6% year over year. Including one-time items, Walmart reported earnings of $1.27 per share, which surged 74% year over year.

Total revenues advanced 1.9% to $138.8 billion that fell slightly short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $139.3 billion. The year-over-year upside was driven by strength in the U.S. business. On a currency-neutral basis, total revenues grew 3.1% to $140.5 billion.

The company reiterated its outlook for fiscal 2020, which was issued on Oct 16. The company anticipates consolidated net sales to rise at least 3%, including benefits from Flipkart, adverse impacts from Walmart Brazil’s deconsolidation and planned tobacco sales cut downs at Sam’s Club. The stock has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Microsoft Corporation recently broadened the reach of its AccountGuard offering, which is part of its Defending Democracy Program, to 12 new markets in Europe. Microsoft has a Zacks Rank #3.

The company announced the development via a blog post by the company’s corporate vice president, Customer Security & Trust, Tom Burt.

AccountGuard service, which is already available in the U.K. and Ireland, has now been extended to 12 new European countries, namely Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, and Slovakia. (Read: Microsoft Extends AccountGuard Access Across Europe)

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