Merrill Lynch's Top Industrial and Basic Material Stock Picks for 2015

In all likelihood, despite the near-term market gyrations, we entered in to what could be a long-term secular bull market when the S&P 500 broke a triple top at 1,600 in the summer of 2013. One of the keys to successful investing in a bull market is to stay invested in stocks and be ready to rotate some gains to underperforming sectors. The industrial and basic material sectors have underperformed every S&P 500 sector except consumer discretionary and the recently destroyed energy sector, and a new research report from Merrill Lynch highlights the firm’s top picks.

While the Merrill Lynch team stays selective on industrial and materials, they acknowledge that the United States will most likely lead global gross domestic product growth next year. While continued dollar strength could be a headwind for some, certain stocks will benefit from falling input and fuel costs, and improving domestic consumer spending. We screened the Merrill Lynch stocks rated Buy for those with the biggest upside potential for 2015.

AECOM Technology Corp. (NYSE: ACM) provides professional technical and management support services for public and private clients around the world. It provides planning, consulting, architectural and engineering design, and program and construction management services for a broad range of projects, including highways, airports, bridges, mass transit systems, government and commercial buildings, water and wastewater facilities, and power transmission and distribution. The company also provides program and facilities management and maintenance, training, logistics, security and other support services, mainly for U.S. government agencies.

The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is a strong $46. The Thomson/First Call consensus target is at $37.12. Shares close Tuesday at $30.37. Trading to the target would be a gain of more than 50%.

ALSO READ: 5 Top Tech Picks for 2015 From Deutsche Bank

Eastman Chemical Co. (NYSE: EMN) is another top stock with solid emerging market and domestic sales and revenue. The company recently completed its buyout of specialty chemical company Taminco for $2.8 billion in cash and assumed debt. The deal, which was announced in September, adds a company that is a top producer of Alkylamines, which are organic compounds used to make products for a host of end-use markets, including agriculture, animal nutrition, water treatment and personal and home care.

Eastman Chemical investors are paid a 1.7% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $103 price target, and the consensus is posted at $94.36. Shares close at $79.46. Hitting the target would be just shy of a 30% gain.

General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) is another top stock to buy on the list. Despite all of its recent recall troubles, hedge funds and portfolio managers across Wall Street are continuing to stick with GM. Its stock trades at a low 9.8 times forward earnings. The company has benefited from incredible sales in China to boost revenue. GM has invested heavily in China and grabbed a big chunk of what is now the world’s largest auto market. Recently, hedge fund manager Kyle Bass made the case that on a sum-of-the-parts basis the stock is incredibly cheap, and he has continued to add to his position this year.

GM is still down almost 20% this year, and GM shareholders continue to be paid a very solid 3.5% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price objective is $50, and the consensus target is at $40.38. GM closed Tuesday at $32.81. Trading to the Merrill Lynch target would be a huge 53% gain.

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Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN) is a homebuilder that the Merrill Lynch team remain very positive on. With the banks and lenders finally loosening credit, some think that the homebuilding industry could have an outstanding 2015. Housing starts have improved 7.8% year-over-year, suggesting that the broader housing trends are still very much in place. Lennar builds affordable, move-up and retirement homes, and the company’s financial services segment provides mortgage financing, title insurance and closing services for buyers.

Lennar investors are paid a small 0.4% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price objective is $57, and the consensus stands much lower at $46.82. Shares closed trading on Tuesday at $45.82. Hitting the target would be just shy of a 25% gain.

Silver Wheaton Corp. (NYSE: SLW) is a royalty and streaming gold and silver stock that many Wall Street analysts feel positive about. The company has 20 long-term purchase agreements associated with silver and gold relating to 23 mining assets. Its principal portfolio includes silver and precious metal streams on the Barrick’s Pascua-Lama project, Hudbay’s Constancia project and Vale’s Salobo and Sudbury mines.

Silver Wheaton investors are paid a 1.1% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $29 price target, and the consensus target is posted at $27.23. The stock closed Tuesday at $21.82. Hitting the target would be a 30% gain.

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While the bull market seems old to many, and 2015 returns are likely much lower than the double-digit gains of the past few years, the trend is still in place to go higher. Investors should think about starting to move away from high-priced momentum stocks and huge tech winners, and rotate some gains to industrials and materials.

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