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Strong dollar hits Pfizer; Merck 'blew away' estimates

Merck and Pfizer—both components of the Dow Jones industrial average—reported earnings and revenues on Tuesday that beat expectations.

But Pfizer also cut its full-year revenue and profit forecast, blaming a stronger dollar.

"The only thing that they lowered their guidance on ... was all currency," Leerink Partners Pharma Analyst Seamus Fernandez told CNBC. "It's currency effects. We saw it with J&J ... and Lilly last week."

Pfizer reported first-quarter adjusted profit of 51 cents per share on $10.86 billion in revenue—helped by demand for its vaccines and cancer drugs.

Shares of the drugmaker were roughly unchanged at $34.62 in premarket trading. The stock rose about 12 percent in the three months to March 31, while the broader Dow industrial average fell 1.45 percent.

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Mario Tama | Getty Images

Pfizer, which got 60 percent of its 2014 revenue from outside the U.S., cut its 2015 revenue forecast to a range of $44 billion to $46 billion from $44.5 billion to $46.5 billion.

The dollar gained nearly 9 percent against a basket of major currencies from January to March, after rising 13 percent in 2014.

Pfizer's net profit rose to $2.38 billion, or 38 cents per share, for the quarter, from $2.33 billion, or 36 cents per share, a year earlier.

Fernandez said an important part of Pfizer's future story lies with its planned $17 billion buyout of Hospira, which makes injectable drugs and infusion technologies.

"Hospira actually had a very impressive quarter on the gross margin," he said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "Pfizer is expected to close the Hospira deal sometime in the middle of this year."

Merck beats Q1 forecasts

A Merck sign in front of the company's building in Summit, New Jersey.
Getty Images
A Merck sign in front of the company's building in Summit, New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Merck reported better-than-expected quarterly sales and earnings, helped by sales of its Januvia diabetes drug and its animal health products.

Excluding special items, Merck earned 85 cents per share in the first quarter, well above estimates. Revenue of $9.43 billion topped Wall Street expectations of $9.07 billion.

"Merck blew away the quarter," said Barbara Ryan, partner at strategic adviser Clermont Partners. "It was revenues and gross margin. It was a mix related to new products."

Merck issued 2015 earnings guidance slightly above estimates.

"We are seeing proof that [Merck Chairman and CEO] Ken Frazier's bold commitment to R&D" has paid off, Ryan told CNBC.

The drugmaker said it earned $953 million, or 33 cents per share, for the quarter. That compared with $1.71 billion, or 57 cents per share, in the year earlier period.

CNBC's Terri Cullen and Reuters contributed to this report.

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