The Evening Standard reports that Merrill Lynch has succeeded in confusing investors by issuing three different ratings on pharmaceuticals group Merck & Co in just a matter of hours.
First thing this morning it was business as usual at Merrill as far as Merck was concerned as the drug stock was rated a 'buy' by the firm. A few hours later the Merck announced that it wanted to hold a conference call with analysts prior to a scheduled meeting. Merrill panicked, feared the worst and changed its rating on Merck to 'sell'.
At midday the drugs company issued a press release which confirmed its earnings estimates for this year and next and said that the soon-to-be held conference call with analysts would not be used to issue a profits warning. Merrill then changed it rating from 'sell' to 'neutral'!
In a related story, Merrill has confirmed that it has restructured its brokerage forces into a single unit and that G. Kelly Martin, the firm's retail chief and fixed-income star, will leave in January after assisting with the transition.