Merrill Lynch Raises Price Targets on 4 Blue Chips That Beat Estimates

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The higher the market goes, the harder it is to justify many of the multiples being applied to shares. The big moves in the market since the election last November were due in part to big moves by tech stocks with very large market capitalization. With tail-risk mounting due to the upcoming French election finals round, the geopolitical situation around the world and some sociopolitical issues here at home, it makes sense for investors to go with lower multiple large cap growth stocks.

In a series of new research reports, Merrill Lynch analysts have raised price targets on four quality large cap growth stocks that makes good sense for growth investors looking to reposition their portfolios to account for perhaps more volatility the rest of 2017. With corporate optimism much stronger than some of the current data, playing it safe makes good sense.

General Dynamics

This company, like other major defense prime contractors, has had a very solid year and remains one the best ideas at Merrill Lynch in the space. General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD) is engaged in business aviation, land and expeditionary combat vehicles and systems, armaments, munitions, shipbuilding and marine systems, and information systems and technologies.

Major products include Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarine and Ohio class replacement, Arleigh Burke-class Aegis, Abrams M1A2 tank, Stryker 8-wheeled assault vehicle, medium-caliber munitions and gun systems, tactical and strategic mission systems.

The company reported stunning first-quarter earnings that were well above the analysts’ consensus estimate. The earnings beat was driven by better than expected margins and lower taxes.

General Dynamics shareholders are paid a 1.72% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock was raised to $225 from $210. The Wall Street consensus price objective is set at $203.06. The stock closed trading on Thursday at $195.03 per share.

Ingersoll-Rand

This is one of the many top companies that have restructured and are now based in Ireland. Ingersoll-Rand PLC (NYSE: IR) is another top industrial stock to buy and, with the housing market continuing to grow, the company’s wide range of portfolio products should continue to sell well.

Many on Wall Street also see the stock as a good play on the replacement, upgrade and, ultimately, growth in the commercial and residential air conditioning markets. Trends in these markets have been highly correlated with overall commercial construction and are thus earlier in the cycle.

Ingersoll Rand has an outstanding portfolio of global brands and holds leading market share in all major product lines. The geographic and industrial diversity coupled with a large installed product base provides solid growth opportunities for the company within service, spare parts and replacement revenue streams.

The company posted stellar quarterly numbers, and the analysts noted this:

The company beat our and consensus estimates in both segments with organic growth accelerating in the first quarter to 4% vs. 2% in the fourth quarter of 2016. Ingersoll Rand raised the lower end of 2017 outlook by $.05 per share to $4.35-$4.50, on the first quarter beat, but we view the range as conservative. Margins were solid as material inflation headwind was more than offset by productivity improvement returning to a positive.

Ingersoll-Rand investors are paid a 1.8% dividend. Merrill Lynch raised its price objective on the shares to $96 from $85, and posted consensus target price is $85.94. The stock closed on Thursday at $89.25 a share.