Morgan Stanley Downgrades Merck to 'Equal-Weight'

Analyst Jami Rubin cites the drugmaker's decision to halt late-stage trials of a diabetes drug

Morgan Stanley downgraded Merck & Co. (MRK ) to equal-weight, from overweight.

Analyst Jami Rubin says she's downgrading Merck after the drugmaker announced it's terminating MK-767, a dual PPAR (peroxisome proliferator activated receptor) agonist for the treatment of diabetes. She notes MK-767 was considered one of the most promising drugs in Merck's late-stage pipeline. Evidence of cancer was found in mice during the late-stage trials.

Rubin views this news as the "last straw" after a series of recent setbacks. Last week, Merck scrapped its plan for a depression medicine after it proved ineffective in clinical trials.

She cut the $53 target to $51. Rubin sees $2.94 2003 earnings per share, $3.24 in 2004, and $3.52 in 2005.

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