4 Merrill Lynch US 1 List Dividend Stocks for the Rest of 2017

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With the summer drawing to a close, and the traditional slow trading of August soon to be over, now is the time when many investors return from their vacations and start to map out a plan for the rest of the year. With the often dangerous fall months right around the corner, it may make sense to take some profit on some of the high-flyers and move those dollars into growth and income stocks that may fare better if we see a correction.

We haven’t had a 5% pullback since June of last year, right around the time of the Brexit vote. That is the longest stretch since 1994 to 1996 and the fourth longest since 1958. That means it may be time for some caution. We screened the Merrill Lynch US 1 list of high conviction stock picks and found four companies with solid upside potential that all pay dividends. All are outstanding picks for growth and income accounts.

American Express

This stock has had a solid year but is still down over 10% from highs printed in 2014. American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) provides charge and credit payment card products and travel-related services to consumers and businesses worldwide.

The company’s products and services include charge and credit card products; payments and expense management products and services; consumer and business travel services; stored value products, such as traveler’s checks and other prepaid products; and network services.

The company posted solid second-quarter results, and the analysts said this afterward:

American Express reported second quarter adjusted EPS of $1.47 ahead of consensus driven by solid revenue growth and expense management. We were encouraged by the company’s 3rd consecutive quarter of strong operating performance which we think bodes well for 2018.

American Express shareholders are paid a 1.5% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $102, but the Wall Street consensus target is much lower at $87. The stock closed Thursday at $85.36 a share.

Comcast

This broadcasting-related stock could have continued solid upside potential. Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is the largest U.S. provider of cable services, with over 22 million basic subscribers. It owns NBCU, which includes the NBC TV Networks, Telemundo, MSNBC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, E!, CNBC and several other cable networks, as well as Universal Films and Universal Theme Parks.

Comcast has invested in technology to build an advanced network that delivers among the fastest broadband speeds and brings customers personalized video, communications and home management offerings. The company reported very solid second-quarter results, and the analysts noted this at the time:

Comcast reported strong second quarter 2017 earnings, with healthy results across all business lines. The company reported strong consolidated revenue of $21.2bn (+9.8% year-over-year growth) and +10% operating cash flow growth to $7.1 billion.

Investors in Comcast receive a 1.55% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $50 price objective, and the consensus target is $46.21. The shares closed Thursday at $40.14.

Delta Air Lines

This company consistently has ranked high with Wall Street, and it posted second-quarter earnings in line with Merrill Lynch estimates. Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) and the regional Delta Connection carriers offer service to 334 destinations in 64 countries on six continents. Headquartered in Atlanta, Delta employs nearly 80,000 employees worldwide and operates a mainline fleet of more than 700 aircraft.

Wall Street analysts have long lauded Delta for the most extensive hedging policy among the airlines and it owns and operates a refinery in addition to a sizable hedging book. Trading at a low 7.5 times 2018 estimated earnings, the stock is right in the metrics that look so solid.

Delta investors are paid a very nice 2.7% dividend. The stunning $71 Merrill Lynch price objective compares with the consensus estimate of $65.69. The stock closed most recently at $45.21.

Newell Brands

This top consumer goods stock is a safe play for investors worried about a toppy market. Newell Brands Inc. (NYSE: NWL) is a manufacturer and marketer of consumer products has six reporting segments, including the recently acquired Jarden.

The segments are: Writing (Sharpie, Paper Mate, Waterman, Parker), Home Solutions (Rubbermaid, Calphalon, Goody), Tools (Irwin, Lenox), Commercial Products (Rubbermaid Commercial Products, Rubbermaid Healthcare), Baby & Parenting (Graco, Aprica) and Jarden (with 120 brands including Yankee Candle, Jostens, Oster, Sunbeam, Mr. Coffee, K2, Marmot, Rawlings, Coleman and First Alert).

Top Wall Street analysts see upside from cost synergies, more acquisitions and portfolio rationalization that could drive operating margins and the multiple. Earlier this year the company announced the sale of its Winter Sports business for $240 million. That sale increases focus on the go-forward portfolio, while also providing cash for delevering or mergers and acquisitions.

Investors are paid a 1.9% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is $60. The posted consensus price objective is $58.88. The shares closed Thursday at $48.15.

All these top companies are well-positioned in their respective sectors and offer solid upside to the Merrill Lynch price targets. They also offer investors more contrarian plays in a very rich stock market, something that makes good sense at this point.