Merck reports higher-than-expected earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Merck & Co <MRK.N> reported higher-than-expected first-quarter earnings, fueled by strong sales of its drugs for diabetes, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

The second-largest U.S. drugmaker said it earned $1.04 billion, or 34 cents per share, compared with $299 million, or 9 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, Merck earned 92 cents per share. Analysts on average expected 84 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)