Investing

Merrill Lynch Updates US 1 List, Adding a Top Financial Stock

With the market past a very volatile January and well into February, major firms on Wall Street that we cover here at 24/7 Wall St. are tweaking and fine-tuning their lists of top stocks to buy. A new report from Merrill Lynch includes the addition of a top financial stock to the firm’s US 1 list, and also another mega-cap bank is retained on the prestigious list.

The analysts added BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BLK) to the list. Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) was retained on the US 1 list for another 52 week term.

We screened the list for stocks that were trading at or below the price at which they were trading when the Merrill Lynch team added the companies to the US 1 list. These five stocks may have some of the best upside potential of the 25 stocks that make the grade to be on the list.

American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) was once one of the housing-crash poster children, and it has rebounded to past glory and performed outstanding for investors over the past two years. AIG is the marketing name for the worldwide property-casualty, life and retirement, and general insurance operations of American International Group. Wall Street analysts cite AIG’s 46% stake in AerCap Holdings and the positive revenue stream produced as a huge positive going forward. AIG acquired the stake when the company sold its gigantic aircraft leasing business to AerCap.

AIG investors are paid a 0.95% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $61. The Thomson/First Call consensus price target is $61.68. The stock closed Tuesday at $52.41 a share.

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Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP) remains one of the top tech stocks to buy on Wall Street for a security presence, and the Merrill Lynch analysts, like many on Wall Street, think the company is one of the best in helping customers protect against advanced persistent threats. Check Point is considered a worldwide leader in securing the Internet, providing customers with uncompromised protection against all types of threats, reducing security complexity and lowering the total cost of ownership. Check Point first pioneered the industry with FireWall-1 and its patented stateful inspection technology.

The Merrill Lynch price target is $85, and the consensus target is set at $85.53. Shares closed Tuesday at $76.96.

Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: KORS) has been a hot retail name in clothing and clothing accessories, and it could be the epitome of the social media advertiser. As one of the fastest growing luxury brands in the world, the company has the cushion of the high-dollar consumer, but that hasn’t stopped it from pursuing an aggressive social media branding and sales agenda. The stock is off huge from its highs of a year ago and may be offering investors the perfect entry point.

The Merrill Lynch price target is a bold $100, and the consensus target is much lower at $86.88. Shares closed trading at $71.27.

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Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY) is a top oil stock to buy on the Merrill Lynch US 1 list, and way down from the addition price. It announced last year it will continue to grow dividends and expects to begin buying back more shares this year, a double plus for shareholders. The Merrill Lynch analysts feel that the company faces the oil price correction with the strongest balance sheet in the sector, with net cash at year-end 2014 at around $1.7 billion, and a whopping $11 per share of cash available for buybacks. With chemicals and other midstream assets helping to blunt the drop in oil, Occidental is well positioned to ride out the storm.

Occidental shareholders are paid a solid 3.6% dividend, which the analyst feels may be raised this year to above 4%. The Merrill Lynch price target for this very defensive top energy play is $98. The consensus target is $84.87. The stock closed Tuesday at $81.31.

St. Jude Medical Inc. (NYSE: STJ) is a top health care idea on the Merrill Lynch US 1 list for 2015. The analysts continue to think that the company should benefit from both increased pipeline visibility and potential industry consolidation long term. In addition, they expect accelerating revenue growth to match up with the improving pipeline, which gives investors two strong attributes for the stock the rest of the year. St. Jude has four major clinical focus areas that include cardiac rhythm management, atrial fibrillation, cardiovascular and neuromodulation.

St. Jude investors are paid a 1.65% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is $75. The consensus estimate is at $72.81. St. Jude closed Tuesday at $66.06.

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All these stocks are trading right at, or even below their prices when added to the US 1 list. One good thing for investors is to see that the Merrill Lynch team has conviction in the stock choices and did not remove them simply for flat or lower price performance.