Zacks.com, Chicago, has issued a "#5 (Strong Sell)" ranking on the stock of Merrill Lynch & Co. and Bear, Stearns & Co., placing them on Zacks' list of Stocks to Sell Now. The company noted that Merrill Lynch "has been one of the poster children for the subprime lending debacle" and that it reported "another disastrous quarter" on Jan. 17, disclosing an additional $11.5 billion writedown to the company's subprime portfolio. Regarding Bear Stearns, Zacks said it has also been hit hard by weakness in the credit and subprime markets. "In 2007, the company's stock price topped off at over $170 per share, but then proceeded to plummet in the ensuing months, shedding more than 50% of its value, and at one point dropping below $70." Bear recently reported "a fairly brutal fourth quarter" and fiscal year, Zacks said. Stocks with a #5 (Strong Sell) rank should be sold or avoided in the next one to three months, according to Zacks. The company can be found online at http://www.zacks.com.

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