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Merck quarterly earnings beat forecasts

Merck & Co Inc. (MRK-N) reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings despite the negative impact of the stronger dollar, with solid sales growth from its vaccines and treatments for diabetes and HIV.

The No. 2 U.S. drugmaker said on Friday it earned $1.79 billion US, or 58 cents per share, in the second quarter. That compared with $2.02 billion, or 65 cents per share, in the year-earlier period.

Excluding special items, the company earned $1.05 per share. Analysts, on average, expected $1.01 per share.

Company sales rose 1 percent to $12.31 billion, topping estimates of $12.15 billion. Sales would have risen 5 percent if not for the stronger dollar, which lowers the value of sales in overseas markets.

Despite the negative impact of foreign exchange, Merck reaffirmed it expects earnings of $3.75 to $3.85 per share for the full year, excluding special items. That compares with last year's profit of $3.77 per share.

Merck is girding for the U.S. patent expiration next month on its biggest product, asthma drug Singulair, which will open the flood gates to cheaper generics and hurt results for the rest of the year.

Singulair sales rose 6 percent in the second quarter to $1.43 billion.

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