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Big Health Care Stocks to Watch in the New Year

Big Health Care Stocks to Watch in the New Year

Key Points

  • UNH is pricey, but they've earned it with a solid dividend, and upside values (Moderate BUY)
  • MRK is at the top of its range, but negative earnings growth could slow its momentum (Moderate BUY)
  • PFE is the most affordable stock on this list but is in decline; hoping for a rebound soon (HOLD) 
  • 5 stocks we like better than GSK

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.

Should you invest $1,000 in GSK right now?

Before you consider GSK, you'll want to hear this.

MarketBeat keeps track of Wall Street's top-rated and best performing research analysts and the stocks they recommend to their clients on a daily basis. MarketBeat has identified the five stocks that top analysts are quietly whispering to their clients to buy now before the broader market catches on... and GSK wasn't on the list.

While GSK currently has a "Moderate Buy" rating among analysts, top-rated analysts believe these five stocks are better buys.

View The Five Stocks Here

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Companies Mentioned in This Article

CompanyMarketRank™Current PricePrice ChangeDividend YieldP/E RatioConsensus RatingConsensus Price Target
GSK (GSK)
4.5402 of 5 stars
4.54 / 5 stars
$39.30+1.2%3.84%14.24Moderate Buy$50.00
UnitedHealth Group (UNH)
4.9178 of 5 stars
4.92 / 5 stars
$559.58+0.9%1.50%34.20Buy$614.17
Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK)
4.4437 of 5 stars
4.44 / 5 stars
$125.93+1.2%2.45%139.92Moderate Buy$135.36
Pfizer (PFE)
4.7146 of 5 stars
4.71 / 5 stars
$29.99+1.6%5.60%-499.67Hold$34.50
Roche (RHHBY)
0.9483 of 5 stars
0.95 / 5 stars
$38.54+0.9%2.18%N/AReduce$40.00
Compare These Stocks  Add These Stocks to My Watchlist 


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