Merck Takes Over as Dow’s Top-Performing Dow Stock

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Last week saw the Dow recover a goodly portion of the previous week’s loss. The move higher resulted in a change at the top as Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) replaced Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) as the Dow’s top performer in 2018. Merck shares added about 2.7% last week to give the pharmaceutical giant a year-to-date gain of 28.4%.

The second-best performer among the Dow index equities so far this year is Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), up 24.1% followed by Apple, up 22.6%; Visa Inc. (NYSE: V), also up 22.6%; and Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE), up 22.4%. Of the 30 Dow stocks, 19 have managed to post gains to date in 2018.

The blue-chip index shed more than 580 points last week to close at 25,270.83, up about 2.4% compared to the previous Friday’s close. For the year to date, the index is up 1.8%, trailing the Nasdaq Composite (5%) but leading the S&P 500 (up about 1%).

The primary reason that Merck displaced Apple as the Dow’s top performer last week was Apple’s lackluster Thursday earnings report. The tech giant dropped 6.6% on Friday to close the week down 4%. At the same time, Merck added 2.7%.

The drugmaker got some good news on Tuesday when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its Keytruda lung cancer drug in combination with two other drugs for first-line treatment of patients with metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer.

Merck’s shares closed Friday at $72.27, down about 1.2% for the day, in a 52-week range of $52.83 to $74.49. The consensus price target is $79.12 and the company’s forward price-earnings ratio is 15.34.