Merck Is Best Performing DJIA Stock So Far in 2017

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average came within a hair of reaching the 20,000 mark on January 6 but has since dropped back to close Friday at 19,885.73. Since the November election of Donald Trump, the Dow has added more than 10% as investors anticipate a more business friendly environment with full Republican Party control of the Congress and the Oval Office.

Oddly, perhaps, the best performing stock in the first two weeks of the year is drug maker Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK). The stock has added 5.89% year to date.

Last Wednesday was a big day for the company, as three analysts lifted the stock from the equivalent of Hold to Buy. Such a flurry of positive sentiment for a drug stock typically only occurs when a new drug approval is granted or earnings shatter expectations.

The lift was probably a result of the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to grant Merck’s Keytruda cancer drug an expedited review. We reviewed the updates and also took a look at some of the less bullish takes on Merck.

In our preview of the stock for 2017, Merck’s bull/bear Outlook, we noted an implied total return of 17.5% for the stock. The company’s total return last year was 20%.

Recent comments from President-elect Donald Trump regarding high U.S. drug prices may be a headwind for Merck and other pharmaceutical houses, but for now the threat of some sort of action to curb drug prices seems pretty muted. The U.S. Senate last week defeated an amendment to the budget bill that would have allowed a review federal policy preventing re-importation of prescription drugs into the United States.

The stock closed Friday at $62.34 in a 52-week range of $47.97 to $65.46. The consensus 12-month price target on the shares is $68.21.