Energy has become the absolute whipping boy for the markets over the past year, and many people are reluctant to look at the stocks despite the powerful forward possibilities. We noted recently that energy master limited partnerships had a horrible quarter, topped off by a miserable September.
One way for investors to play the energy game is go big and go for the big dividends. While there may not be a huge oil price breakout until 2017, patient investors can buy now at the best prices since 2011. We screened the Merrill Lynch energy research universe for high-paying stocks that make good sense now. Three are rated Buy and one Neutral.
This company may offer investors some of the best total return possibilities, and the Merrill Lynch analysts see it as a top yield play. ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) is a large integrated that has spent the past five years divesting assets. Although it is cash rich, the company has somewhat dampened earnings and growth expectations all year long. Now, with oil looking for a bottom, and the market watching events in the Middle East, many analysts may feel more comfortable with the stock. The company’s big production ability in the Eagle Ford could bode well for the future.
Merrill Lynch feels Conoco can accelerate growth from reloaded portfolio depth in the Bakken and Eagle Ford with visibility on future growth from a newly disclosed sizable position in the Permian. The analyst applauds the company’s recent positive earnings report, cuts in unnecessary spending and the possibility of increased sales of non-core assets.
Conoco investors are paid a very strong 6.12% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target on the stock is $74. The consensus price target is $63.38. Conoco closed trading Thursday at $48.16.
The world’s largest international integrated oil and gas company reported better second-quarter revenue numbers, though earnings in below Wall Street estimates. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is an energy sector play that the Merrill Lynch analysts are very positive on long term as the overall corporate strength of the massive integrated giant plays a significant part in the company’s usually solid earnings reporting pattern.
Merrill Lynch has stressed in the past the company’s global downstream chemical segment plays a huge part for Exxon. It may be a part that many others on Wall Street don’t fully appreciate, as the segment contributes an estimated 16% of overall total revenue. A very solid reason for adding the stock to a long-term growth portfolio is that the company consistently has demonstrated disciplined investing, operational excellence and technological innovation.
Exxon investors are paid a very sizable 4% dividend. The Merrill Lynch target price is $100. The consensus price objective is lower at $82.53. Shares closed trading on Thursday at $74.06, down almost 15% for the year.