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Merrill Upgrades Merck to 'Neutral'

Merrill Lynch upgraded Merck (MRK) to neutral from sell.

The drug maker affirmed in a press release late Tuesday that it sees double digit 2003 earnings per share growth for its core pharmaceutical business, and says it will still give detailed 2003 guidance on Dec. 5.

Analyst David Risinger says earlier Tuesday he downgraded the drug maker to sell from buy, based on concerns over Merck's announcement that it would provide detailed financial guidance in a conference call on Dec. 5. Risinger had assumed that Merck's announcement meant that its 2003 earnings per share guidance would be disappointing -- based on the fact that the conference call was scheduled ahead of analyst day, which will take place on Dec. 10.

However, in light of the late-day earnings reaffirmation, Risinger now rates the shares as neutral as he awaits the details of Merck's financial outlook and the company's potential stock multiple.

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