Google Gets Lukewarm Embrace From Merrill

Google’s growth prospects are strong, but they’re largely reflected in the company’s share price, Merrill Lynch argued on Wednesday.

Merrill initiated coverage of Google with a “neutral” rating, saying that the company’s shares are fairly valued.

“On an absolute basis, Google’s valuations appear high,” Merrill wrote, “but given the current fantastic growth rate of the industry … the absolute valuations could end up looking really rational in retrospect.”

The Wall Street firm said it expects Google to grow earnings 50% over the next year and maintain 30% earnings growth after that.

Merrill’s lukewarm embrace was enough to keep shares of Google relatively unchanged in yet another down day for the market, with inflation and jobs growth concerns taking center stage once again.

The Nasdaq lost 16 to 2091, the S&P 500 slipped 4 to 1183, and the Dow fell 32 to 10,597. Volume rose to 1.74 billion shares on the NYSE, but declined to 2.4 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led 24-9 on the NYSE, and 22-9 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 75% on the NYSE, and 72% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 31-15 on the NYSE, and 40-20 on the Nasdaq.

After the close, Priceline announced the resignation of COO Mitch Truwit, who is heading to Cendant . Emulex and Open Text raised guidance, and Lawson announced an SEC investigation into the company’s revenue recognition practices.

During the day, Xilinx fell 3% on a warning.

Siebel lost 3% despite raising guidance, while LSI and Entrust gained on their improved outlooks.

Transmeta plunged on news that the company may change its business model. jumped 10% on a Morgan Stanley upgrade.

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