Blue-Chip Pharma Stock Pops on Earnings, Revenue Beat

Options bulls are blasting Merck stock

Digital Content Manager
Oct 28, 2021 at 10:53 AM
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Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) is up 4.2% to trade at $84.99 at last check, after the blue-chip concern posted a third-quarter earnings and revenue beat. The company attributed the strong results to cancer drug Keytruda's 22% sales growth, while cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil also beat estimates. In response, Merck raised and narrowed its 2021 profit forecast, adding its experimental Covid-19 drug could bring in between $5 and $7 billion in sales through the end of next year.

On the charts, the equity surged to an annual high of $85.60 earlier. The shares have experienced some volatility over the past year, but have been chopping higher since bouncing off the 80-day moving average earlier this month. Year-over-year, MRK is up 16.9%.

The brokerage bunch is relatively split towards Merck stock, indicating there is plenty of room for upgrades going forward. Of the 13 analysts in coverage, seven carry a "strong buy" rating, while six still say "hold." Meanwhile, the 12-month consensus target price of $93.88 is a 10.6% premium to current levels.

The options pits are firmly in the bullish camp. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Cboe Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), MRK's 50-day call/put volume ratio of 5.22 stands higher than 88% of readings from the last year. This means long calls have been getting picked up at a much quicker-than-usual pace.

Drilling down to today's options activity, 48,000 calls have exchanged hands so far, which is double the intraday average. Most popular is the weekly 10/29 85-strike call, where new positions are being opened, followed by the January 2022 87.50-strike call, where LEAPS activity is suspected.

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