Analyst’s Top Stock Picks for 2015 That Are Unloved by Wall Street

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Wall Street is the ultimate follow-the-leader world. If a stock has a bad quarter, you can always count on the analysts downgrades, none of which usually help at that point because the damage is done. A new research note from Cowen has a long list of stocks that are out of consensus at many firms on Wall Street, but remain rated Outperform at the Cowen. This is a refreshing look at top companies that for whatever reason are not in favor at other brokerage firms on Wall Street.

We scanned the Cowen report for large-cap stocks that are leaders in their respective sectors and have big dividends, and we came up with five leading companies that would be suitable for almost any portfolio. Again, all are rated Outperform.

Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) is a top tobacco stock to buy at Cowen, and the company’s Marlboro brand is one of the most recognizable in the world. Many Wall Street analysts concede that the stock has solid downside support owing to the generous dividend yield, which remains at a huge premium in relation to the 10-year Treasury rate. Cash flow generation and the return of cash to Altria shareholders remain key facets of the company’s total shareholder return, and the analysts believe the dividend will continue to climb. The company is also expected to maintain strong share repurchase activity in 2015 and beyond.

Altria shareholders are paid a 4.2% dividend. The Cowen price target for the stock is $53. The Thomson/First Call consensus price target is $48.78. Altria closed Friday at $50.60 a share.

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Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) is a perfect story for investors looking to stay long the energy sector, which needless to say is probably the most out-of-favor sector on Wall Street. With its large dividend and a solid place in the sector when it comes to 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. Cowen has a $125 price target, while the consensus target is posted at $122.57. Shares closed on Friday at $108.21.

Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) has a unique earnings profile and is the closest thing in the space to a Medicare Advantage pure play, with almost 60% of operating earnings levered to this segment and a strong market position. Future growth should come from a combination of baby boomers (turning 65 at the rate of 8,000 per day for the next 18 years) and continued market share gains and potential shifts from employers to Medicare. The company is another that will be closely watched for revenues and profitability from the public exchanges, and that has led some on Wall Street to shy away.

Humana investors are paid a 0.8% dividend. The Cowen price target is $155, and the consensus target is considerably lower at $143.90. Humana closed Friday at $146.75.

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Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) is the top market cap pharmaceutical stock in the health care sector and likely will raise the dividend for shareholders this year for the 52nd consecutive year. With everything from medical devices to over-the-counter health items and prescription drugs, Johnson & Johnson remains one of the most diversified health care names on Wall Street.

Johnson & Johnson investors are paid a 2.7% dividend. Cowen has a $114 price objective for the stock, and the consensus target is $108.57. Johnson & Johnson shares closed trading Friday at $104.94.

Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) is a retail stock that has hit a very rough patch over the past two years, highlighted by a security breach that exposed millions of customer credit cards to hackers and brought an unprecedented amount of negative publicity. With an improving economy and decent holiday numbers, the company has also added a strong Internet presence for online sales. Most importantly, the negative headlines are farther in the rear-view mirror, and the stock could be an outstanding contrarian retail pick.

Target investors are paid a 2.7% dividend. Cowen has set an $85 price target, though the consensus estimate is much lower at $67.96. Shares closed Friday at $76.43.

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All the Cowen price targets are above the Wall Street consensus numbers, and at the end of the day, none of these gigantic market leaders should ever have trouble staying profitable. Long-term investors looking for growth and dividends should consider these outstanding out-of-consensus stock picks from Cowen.