Even though the stock market has rallied for almost eight years without any serious downturns, many of the Wall Street pundits say it can go higher, much higher. Why? Because Wall Street has a very hard time selling things while simultaneously touting a scenario in which perhaps the market corrects to take out some of the excess. With that in mind, what makes sense for investors now?
One thing to do for investors who are not trying to time the market but keep a long-term view is to rotate out of expensive overbought stocks to those that offer more value and dividends. We screened the Merrill Lynch research universe and found five mega-cap companies that fit the bill perfectly, and all are rated Buy at Merrill Lynch.
Shares of this top pharmaceutical stock with very solid growth potential are down over 15% since last August. Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) is a leading diversified global health care company that develops, manufactures and markets branded generics, medical devices, nutritional products and diagnostic solutions.
The company recently agreed to acquire the equity in Minnesota-based Tendyne Holdings that it does not already own for $250 million plus future payments tied to regulatory milestones. Wall Street likes the purchase and the way the company is putting its substantial balance sheet to work.
The company also offers a diversified large cap play as earnings are split between five well-positioned business segments: Nutritionals (31.0% of revenues), Vascular (13.0%), Generic Pharmaceuticals (20.0%) and Diagnostics (25.5%) and Diabetes (10.5%).
Last year, CEO Miles White, who has been at the firm for over three decades, bought a stunning $45.5 million worth of company stock, which added to his already substantial holdings. The purchase made him one of the top 100 shareholders.
Abbott Labs investors receive a 2.5% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is$50, and the Wall Street consensus target is $47.23. The shares closed Wednesday at $42.40.
This company remains a top Warren Buffet holding and offers not only safety, but an incredibly strong worldwide brand. Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) is the world’s largest beverage company, refreshing consumers with more than 500 sparkling and still brands.
Led by Coca-Cola, its portfolio features 20 billion-dollar brands, including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, vitaminwater, Powerade and Minute Maid. Globally, it is the top provider of sparkling beverages, ready-to-drink coffees and juices and juice drinks. Through the world’s largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy its beverages at a rate of more than 1.9 billion servings a day.
When the company reported fourth-quarter earnings it said revenue had dropped from in the comparable quarter a year earlier. However, results were basically in line with the consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters.
It is important to remember that Coca-Cola owns 31.5% of Monster Beverage, which continues to deliver big numbers.
Coca-Cola investors receive a 3.3% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $50 price target, while the consensus target is $46.72. Shares closed Wednesday at $43.02.