Analyst Sees High-Quality Dividends as Bright Spot for 2015

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The stock market is up over 200% from the lows printed in March of 2009. Anybody with a fair amount of market knowledge knows that the double-digit gains of the past five and a half years can’t last forever. In a new report, the equity team at Jefferies are among those that think that next year, while still an up year, will only see a 5% increase. That may come as a shock for those accustomed to big yearly gains.

The Jefferies report highlights stocks that are considered quality companies based on metrics like sustainable growth rates and superior dividend yields. We screened the list for the top-yielding companies.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) is a perfect story for investors looking to stay long the energy sector. With its large dividend, and a solid place in the sector when it comes to natural gas and liquefied natural gas, long-term investors willing to look past the current debacle in oil pricing may be able to make a once-in-a-lifetime buy on this industry behemoth.

Chevron investors are paid a very solid 3.87% dividend. The Thomson/First Call consensus price target for the stock is $32.02. Shares closed up nicely Monday at $111.73 as oil had a bounce back from multiyear lows.

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Emerson Electric Co. (NYSE: EMR) is a top stock to buy that analysts feel will be a beneficiary of an expected upturn in capital spending in 2015. The company boasts a solid balance sheet, with a tiny 0.5 debt-to-equity ratio. Plus the dividend is well covered and was recently increased. Emerson’s Process Management division was recently selected as the main automation contractor for the Shah Deniz Stage 2 development project in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea, a $40 million contract.

Emerson investors receive a 2.97% dividend. The consensus price target is $69.96. Emerson closed Monday at $62.92 a share.

Lorillard Inc. (NYSE: LO) is a tobacco stock best known as the industry leader in menthol cigarettes with the Newport brand. In a deal that is still being assessed by federal regulators, Lorillard was purchased this past summer by Reynolds American, and it is expected to be right in the $27 billion range. Combining the two would give investors a strong company that can continue to post solid earnings growth, cover a big dividend and battle Altria for slumping U.S. market share.

Lorillard investors are currently paid a tidy 3.9% dividend. The consensus price target is $64, and shares closed Monday at $63.25. Ultimately investors are really buying the combined entity with Lorillard shareholders receiving $68.88 per share.

NutriSystem Inc. (NASDAQ: NTRI) is a stock that always tends to get a spike at the beginning of each new year, as many people make commitments to lose weight and turn to the company for the widely advertised packaged food offerings. NutriSystem posted strong third-quarter earnings and is reasonably priced when compared to many of the other stocks competing in the diet category.

NutriSystem investors are paid a solid 3.75% dividend. The consensus price target is $21.51. Shares closed the day on Monday at $18.62.

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Investors that lower their sights some for 2015 and shift out of high-beta momentum names for more solid growth names could be well rewarded. After a long market run, it makes sense that we could experience a year or more of single-digit gains.