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Three Reasons Merck's Time Has Come


Company's announcement of a stock-buyback plan is just one positive signal.

I can almost smell the turkey and taste the cranberry sauce…

Asian stocks rose overnight. The Hang Seng and the Nikkei were up 0.84% and 0.43%, respectively. European stocks were in positive territory early this morning, too. And here in the US, we're currently trading higher.

Here's what I'm focused on this fine Wednesday morning:

Looks like the big-name drug maker is planning on opening up its wallet: Its board gave a nod for a $3 billion stock buyback plan.

Naturally I find this interesting.

1. The company has been in its honeymoon phase since it completed the Schering deal. Shouldn't it hang onto that flash in case something comes up, or for further development? I don't know, but it's a question that pops into my head. A buyback plan (assuming the company does buy back that amount of shares) seems to signal that the board feels the company is in good financial shape.

2. Also, to be in the market with a plan to scoop up stock with the shares near their highs is a good sign, too.

3. Although Merck has largely been ignored by the Street for the past several years, I think its time has come and this announcement is just another signal.

J Crew Group (JCG):
The apparel retailer was out with its third-quarter numbers, which were pretty good.

In the period it put up $0.67, which is respectable because the Street was at just $0.58. And it also beat on the top line.

Some thoughts:

1. Clearly it was a great beat, but it wasn't all that unexpected given the way it whooped estimates the past couple of quarters. I have a hunch that analysts may be knocking up their estimates as a result of the earnings news, which could end up being a good thing for the stock and the shareholders.

2. But I feel it's pretty fairly valued. Right now, the estimate for this year is $1.60. But even if it were to tag another $0.40 on top of that (for a total of $2), where can we really go from the $40-plus level? In short, I sense more downside risk than upside potential.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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