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Big Health Care Stocks to Watch in the New Year

Big Health Care Stocks to Watch in the New Year

Heading into the New Year, many folks might be looking to add some new stocks to their portfolio. Of course, healthcare stocks are always worth considering, as the industry is always a buzz, and these three stocks are certainly ones to watch as 2023 begins.

Slow and Steady is the Name of the Game for UnitedHealth Group 

At a current price just north of $530 per share, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) is not a cheap stock, but they are reliable (and fitting of its moderate Buy rating). Its growth may not appear to be much, but with such a sizable share price, do not let what seems to be small numbers fool you. The stock shows consistent growth; its current value is effectively up +7.25% over the last year. And not only is the current share price in the top 25% of its 52-week range, but it is also up +5.81% YTD.

UNH ended the year with an impressive P/E ratio of 26.02 and a decent dividend yield of 1.24%. It does not stop there, though, as analysts have given the stock a price target of $599.56, representing a humble upside of 12.8%. On top of that, analysts also project 12.90% earnings growth, which amounts to quite a lot with a stock of this size.

That said, UNH has not always had it so easy. The stock sank below $200 for the first time since March 2020 (when share value tanked by nearly 35%) but bounced back quickly, making up the loss in roughly the next four weeks of trading. It has been on quite a tear ever since.

Accordingly, UNH is now continuously posting new record highs, but it is back down a little from its most recent high. If anything, though, this is simply an example of UNH's resilience.

Merck & Co Could Be Near a Peak

Having already burst through the top of its 52-week range, Merck & Co (NYSE: MRK) appears to be in a great position to start the new year, and its Moderate Buy rating certainly helps to support that. However, as a moderate buy, a few aspects of this stock may be worth taking a second look at.

For one, while short interest is healthy, analysts have given the stock a price target of $110.47. However, MRK's current share price is $112.32, representing a downside of -1.5%, so they anticipate slipping a little in earnings. Indeed, analysts expect projected earnings growth of -0.54%. Still, an impressive dividend yield of 2.61%, paired with an 18.70 P/E ratio, could suggest the downturn is temporary.

While the stock had a rocky time getting through the last quarter of 2021 and starting 2022, MRK has also been on a tear; theirs began in the fall of this year. Moreover, through Q3 2022, revenue at Merck was up +13.7% since September, one year ago. With that in mind, many analysts have long believed Merck could be undervalued; and its present trajectory may undoubtedly be an indicator.

Pfizer Inc. Is Down But Poised for A Rebound

Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) stock may be more affordable than many others, at a current price of $51.35, but that doesn't mean it can't compete in the current trading climate. While the analysts have given the stock a HOLD rating, for now, this is easily one of the most recognized names in the healthcare world, and they are also a consistent favorite among traders.

After all, the stock's value is in the top half of its 52-week range and is paying a remarkable 3.09% dividend. Its 9.88 P/E ratio is dependable, even as the stock is down -12.23% YTD. But don't let that deter you; the stock is bouncing back from its recent low and is now up +17.56% over the last quarter, and still rising, and it is paying a dividend of 3.09%.

And its next price target of $56.57 represents a notable 10.4% upside. The only thing that is probably hindering the stock from a better rating is poor earnings growth or projected losses. Indeed, analysts expect negative earnings growth of nearly -27%.

Indeed, Pfizer may not be at its highest value for the year as 2022 comes to a close, but it is currently up from its recent low in October. The stock had been falling for a few months, mainly due to legal issues involving the OTC heartburn medication Zantac. Pfizer is one of many drugmakers who manufacture Zantac, but Roche Laboratories, Inc (OTCMKTS: RHHBY) and GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE: GSK) are the global leaders.

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