Merrill Lynch's Top Catalyst Ideas for the Fourth Quarter

Typically midterm election years are good years for the stock market. While there is no guarantee that this year will follow the past, there is a good chance that the fourth quarter may bring investors solid returns. With super low interest rates still the norm, the best place for investors might just be to stay long the stock market.

A new research report from Merrill Lynch highlights 10 top catalyst-driven ideas for the fourth quarter. We screened those top picks for the stocks with the highest upside potential to the Merrill Lynch price target.

Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF) is a popular financial stock that the analysts at Merrill Lynch see as catalyst-laden for the fourth quarter. They sees the company beating consensus estimates for the third quarter and also see a possibility for a strong fall and holiday shopping season, which could help bolster credit card revenues. The company had $205.9 billion in deposits and $298.3 billion in total assets as of June 30, 2014. Capital One offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients through a variety of channels. The company also offers terrific commercials that have driven brand recognition.

Capital One investors are paid a 1.49% dividend. The Merrill Lynch Price target for the stock is $94. The Thomson/First Call consensus target is $92.45. The stock closed Wednesday at $80.61 a share.

ALSO READ: Merrill Lynch’s Key Stock Picks for the Fourth Quarter

Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is one of the top consumer cable and entertainment names on Wall Street. The largest cable company in the United States has continued its push to be a top entertainment name. The Merrill Lynch analysts think 2014 and 2015 will be banner years for the entertainment giant, with continued strong pricing power, advertising spending growth and new digital platforms. They also see the Comcast shareholders approving the Time Warner Cable deal next week and regulatory approval to follow.

Investors in Comcast are paid a 1.7% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is $70. The consensus target is $63.80. Comcast shares closed Wednesday at $52.93.

Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) is a top consumer discretionary pick that is pushing hard to gain fans in China. The Merrill Lynch team sees the first mainland Disney theme park opening in Shanghai next year as a big catalyst. The company has also struck a multiyear deal with one of the same Chinese media companies with which DreamWorks has a deal, Shanghai Media Group, and will begin producing content specifically for a Chinese audience. Disney as a company is not new to working in China. Disneyland Hong Kong has operated since 2005.

Investors are paid a 1.1% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $105, and the consensus target is lower at $94.32. Disney closed trading Wednesday at $87.49.

ALSO READ: 8 Analyst Stocks Under $10 With Massive Upside Calls

Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) is the Merrill Lynch top biotech catalyst stock pick. The company crushed second-quarter earnings, as its leading drug Sovaldi continues massive sales. During the quarter, Sovaldi delivered product sales of $3.48 billion, exceeding average analysts’ estimates of $2.92 billion. The Merrill Lynch team sees a huge catalyst in approval for new hepatitis C drug Harvoni as early as this month, and it will be priced above Sovaldi at $84,000 for a 12-week therapy. They also expect approval in the European Union in December. With Gilead trading at just 8.8 times 2016 earnings, while the company’s peers are trading at 16.2 times, and the consensus earnings numbers for the company showing a stunning 55% compound annual growth rate, investors may have a fourth quarter home run.

The Merrill Lynch price target for Gilead is $130, and consensus target is $114.33. Shares closed Wednesday at $105.59.

Golar LNG Ltd. (NASDAQ: GLNG) is an interesting catalyst call, as Merrill Lynch sees the company being a beneficiary of the soon to be huge liquid natural gas (LNG) export business. The company is an early mover in the capacity constrained and innovative area of floating liquid natural gas carriers, known as FLNGs, which liquefy natural gas, enabling producers to rapidly export natural gas. With huge foreign demand for LNG, this could be just the spot for aggressive growth investors.

Golar shareholders are paid a very solid 2.9% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is a huge $110, and the consensus is posted at $73.79. The stock closed on Wednesday at $64.23.

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With a pricey market, catalyst-driven stocks are a good way to go. The best thing for investors is regardless of any near-term catalyst success, all of these are solid long-term holdings. That could prove to be an advantage if some of the key drivers don’t pan out.

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