Merck & Co. Inc.'s stock was indicated about 1% higher in premarket trade Thursday, after the drug giant reported a first-quarter profit that beat expectations and raised its outlook for the year, offsetting a sales miss. Earnings for the latest quarter rose to $1.13 billion, or 40 cents a share, from $953 million, or 33 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Excluding non-recurring items, such as one-time costs restructuring, acquisition and divestiture costs, adjusted earnings per share came to 89 cents, above the FactSet consensus of 85 cents. Sales fell to $9.31 billion from $9.43 billion, missing the FactSet consensus of $9.48 billion, as pharmaceutical sales fell 2% to $8.1 billion. For the year, Merck raised its adjusted EPS outlook range to $3.65 to $3.77 from $3.60 to $3.75. The stock has advanced 3.8% year to date through Wednesday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 1.3%.
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