Merrill Lynch Has 4 Large Cap Top Picks for the Rest of 2017

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Incredibly, the third quarter and the 4th of July holiday are upon us already. While the stock market has had an up and down June, and for that matter second quarter, the S&P 500 is up almost 9% year to date. The problem for many investors is that almost every stock you look at seems to be hitting 52-week or all-time highs, and that makes stock picking, which is critical in an aging bull market, all that more important.

We decided to screen the Merrill Lynch US 1 stock list, which is a portfolio of the firm’s highest conviction ideas, for stocks that are reasonably valued and that offer some upside from current trading levels. We also screened for companies that paid consistent dividends and are not trading at highs. We found four outstanding stocks to Buy that make good sense for the second half of 2017.

AT&T

This company has been hit hard this year and offers investors solid value. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is the world’s largest provider of pay TV, with TV customers in the United States and 11 Latin American countries. In the United States, the AT&T wireless network has the nation’s self-described strongest 4G LTE signal and most reliable 4G LTE. The company also helps businesses worldwide serve their customers better with mobility and highly secure cloud solutions.

With its shares trading at a very cheap 14.4 times estimated 2016 earnings, the company continues to expand its user base, and strong product introductions from smartphone vendors have not only driven traffic but increased device financing plans.

The company reported quarterly first-quarter earnings that met analysts’ expectations but revenue disappointed. Record-low equipment sales in wireless was said to have contributed to the year-over-year drop in revenue.

AT&T investors are paid a huge 5.14% dividend. The Merrill Lynch analysts remain positive, with a price objective of $46 on the shares. The Wall Street consensus target price is $39.68, and the shares closed trading on Thursday at $38.10 apiece.

Disney

This is a top consumer media company with multiple streams of income to push revenue. Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) stock continues outperforming on a near-term and long-term basis. With the movie studio business poised to improve, as with accelerating theme park business, the network programming continues to drive viewership with extensive sports programming. Combining that revenue growth with the company’s solid media networks and interactive presence, and the 2017 and 2018 revenue estimates could be conservative.

The Disney Media Networks segment operates broadcast and cable television networks, domestic television stations and radio networks and stations, and it is involved in the television production and television distribution operations. Its cable networks include ESPN, Disney Channels and ABC Family, as well as UTV/Bindass and Hungama. This segment also owns eight domestic television stations. Disney is also one of 24/7 Wall St.’s top 10 stocks to own for the next decade.

Families will be flocking this summer to the company’s theme parks, such as Disneyland, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot and also the international parks.

Disney shareholders are paid a 1.5% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $125 price target for the stock, and the posted consensus price objective is at $118. The shares closed trading on Thursday at $104.22.