The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Nucor Corporation, Encana, Commercial Metals Co., United States Corp. and Merck

   The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Nucor Corporation, Encana, Commercial
                  Metals Co., United States Corp. and Merck

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Nov. 12, 2012

CHICAGO, Nov. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com 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 Nucor Corporation (NUE), Encana
(ECA), Commercial Metals Co. (CMC), United States Corp (X) and Merck (MRK).

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101027/ZIRLOGO)

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Four daily picks
are offered free.

Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

Nucor Inks Agreement with EnCana

Steel maker Nucor Corporation (NUE) entered into a deal with Canada's largest
natural gas producer Encana (ECA) to develop onshore natural gas drilling
program in the continental U.S. Nucor believes that the drilling program will
provide a reliable, low-cost supply of fuel for more than 20 years.

Per the agreement, Nucor will share its part of costs and will also shell out
an additional amount for the drilling. The agreement also has an option where
either of the companies may suspend drilling if the price of natural gas falls
below a predetermined threshold. Encana will provide expertise for drilling
and operating the wells.

The agreement will establish a reliable gas supply for the direct reduced iron
facility, which is currently under construction in Convent, Louisiana where
iron ore is turned into a concentrate. The facility is expected to come online
in mid 2013 and is expected to increase Nucor's usage of natural gas. The
recent deal is an extension of the existing agreement between Nucor and Encana
that was signed in 2010.

As per Nucor, the deal can provide enough natural gas to offset the fuel that
is used at its U.S. mills and two gas-intensive direct reduced iron
facilities. Nucor believes that the deal will improve its competitive position
and will be beneficial for both the companies.

Last month, Nucor released its third quarter 2012 results. The company
reported adjusted (excluding special items) earnings of 45 cents per share in
the third quarter of 2012, ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 42 cents.
The adjusted earnings exclude cost associated with Skyline Steel buyout and
loss on divestiture of the assets of Nucor Wire Products Pennsylvania, Inc.

Profit (as reported) came in at $110.3 million or 35 cents a share, down 39%
from $181.5 million or 57 cents per share reported a year ago. The bottom line
was hurt by lower operating profits at the company's steel mills, especially
in sheet and plate.

Revenues slid 8.6% year over year to $4,801 million, missing the Zacks
Consensus Estimate of $4,856 million. An 8% fall in average sales price
weighed on Nucor's revenues in the quarter. Total tons shipped to outside
customers dipped 0.3% year over year to 5.8 million tons in the reported
quarter and total mill shipments decreased 1.7% to 5.0 million tons.

The company, which competes with Commercial Metals Co. (CMC) and United States
Steel Corp. (X), maintains a Zacks #3 Rank, which translates into a short-term
(1 to 3 months) Hold rating. We currently have a long-term Neutral
recommendation on the shares of Nucor.

FDA Accepts Merck Sleep Drug

Merck (MRK) recently announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
has accepted its new drug application (NDA) for its insomnia candidate,
suvorexant. The agency granted standard review which means a response should
be out in the second half of 2013.

Merck said that the FDA's Controlled Substance Staff will review the NDA. Once
it is approved, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will assess and
assign the schedule for the drug before it is launched.

Suvorexant belongs to a new class of medicines called orexin receptor
antagonists which target and block orexins.

Earlier this year, Merck had presented encouraging data on suvorexant from two
pivotal phase III efficacy trials. Suvorexant was shown to significantly lower
the time it took for patients to fall asleep. Moreover, patients in the
suvorexant arm stayed asleep longer as early as the first night as well as at
the three-month time point.

Approval would make suvorexant the first orexin receptor antagonist to reach
the market. However, we note that the insomnia market is highly competitive
and genericized.

Merck has several more regulatory filings scheduled for the next few quarters.
The company plans to seek US and EU approval for its osteoporosis candidate,
odanacatib, in the first half of 2013 and in Japan in the second half of 2013.

The resubmission of the sugammadex (reversal of certain muscle relaxants used
during surgery) filing in the US is also slated to take place by year end.

Other candidates for which Merck intends to seek regulatory approval in the
coming months include vintafolide (oncology), Tredaptive (cholesterol
management) and V503 (a vaccine that expands protection against certain
HPV-associated cancers by including additional HPV types).

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