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Merrill Lynch Has 4 Safe High-Dividend Stocks to Buy for Retirement and Income

Lee Jackson

Altria

The maker of tobacco products and wine posted very solid numbers through so far this year. Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) is a top mega-cap consumer discretionary stock to buy on Wall Street, and its Marlboro brand remains 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 its total shareholder return, and analysts expect support of the strong dividend, which they believe will continue to climb, and strong share repurchase activity.

Altria’s reported adjusted earnings per share for the third quarter of 2015 were in line with the Wall Street estimates and handily exceeded the prior-year quarter. Earnings were backed by strong performance of the core tobacco business and the leading premium brands. To diversify away from cigarettes and cigars, Altria has expanded its portfolio into new categories like wine, e-cigarettes and a 27% stake in brewer SABMiller, which together generated nearly 10% of its pre-excise tax revenue last quarter. With SABMiller being acquired, Altria will have a huge stake in the world’s biggest beer company.

Investors receive an outstanding 4% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is $66, and the consensus estimate is $64. The stock closed Thursday at $56.76.

ConocoPhillips

Merrill Lynch analysts see this as a top yield play, and they recently added the stock to the firm’s US1 list. ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) is a large integrated that has spent the past five years divesting assets. Although it is cash rich, it has somewhat dampened earnings and growth expectations all year long. With oil looking for a bottom, and the market watching events in the Middle East, many analysts may feel more comfortable with the stock.

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Many Wall Street analysts feel Conoco can accelerate growth from reloaded portfolio depth in the Bakken and Eagle Ford, with visibility on future growth from a newly disclosed sizable position in the Permian. While the company reported a third-quarter loss recently, the largest U.S. independent oil company lowered its 2015 spending target in response to the lingering slump in crude prices. Solid cuts in unnecessary spending, and the possibility of increased sales of non-core assets, remain ongoing positives.

Investors are paid a very strong 5.7% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is a whopping $77. The consensus target is much lower at $62.38. Conoco closed out Thursday at $51.97.

Dominion Resources

Many of the Wall Street firms that we cover are becoming more positive on utilities again after this year’s underperformance. Dominion Resources Inc. (NYSE: D) is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of approximately 24,600 megawatts of generation and 6,455 miles of electric transmission lines. Dominion operates one of the nation’s largest natural gas storage systems, with 928 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves utility and retail energy customers in 13 states.

Dominion operates via three divisions. Dominion Virginia Power is focused on regulated electric transmission and distribution that serve residential, commercial, industrial and governmental customers in Virginia and North Carolina. Dominion Generation generates electricity through coal, nuclear, gas, oil, hydro and renewable sources. Dominion Energy centers around regulated natural gas distribution and storage.

Dominion investors receive a solid 3.85% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is $80, while the consensus target is $78.18. The stock closed Thursday at $67.91.

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Remember, the key here is safety and dividends, and with the best Merrill Lynch safest volatility rating, investors that are very conservative can feel reasonably safe big price swings are probably nowhere near as likely with these top stocks to buy.