10 Top 2016 Stock Picks From Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Other Key Analysts

It is a new year and the bull market may seem a bit interrupted now that 2015 brought no net gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. While that doesn’t mean that the bull market is dead, it has now been almost seven years since that major V-bottom took place in 2009. What seems more and more likely here is that 2016 could be the year for stock pickers rather than for index trackers.

24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of analyst reports each day, and this becomes hundreds of analyst calls each week. It turns out that there is massive upside expected by Wall Street’s top analysts in some of the top large cap stocks. So, which well-known and large cap stocks to do the major analysts on Wall Street like for 2016?

Included in this analysis is a brief synopsis of large cap stock picks that were published in the second half of December for big upside in 2016. These are from firms like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, RBC Capital Markets and others. Included is a brief synopsis of their calls, along with links to a larger call, and also other supporting or opposite calls seen elsewhere in the news.

Please note: the idea is not to just blindly follow analysts. Some analyst calls prove to be very wrong, some painfully so. Analysts often have opposite views from one firm to another. Investors should think about what it means that even some of the most popular stocks in the world have a very high short interest.

Here are 10 top large cap stocks with major calls seen for upside in 2016. As a reminder, these are the large cap stocks with values exceeding $10 billion (and then some), rather than the most aggressive upside calls seen in small cap and speculative stocks.

> Year-end price:

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) seems to have stubbed its toe at the end of the year, but this remains one of the top end-of-year picks from Goldman Sachs. It is on the firm’s prized Conviction Buy list and was initially included on that list with a $163.00 price target — some $15.00 higher than the consensus analyst target now. Keep in mind that many analysts have lowered expectations for Apple and are expected to keep doing so into 2016. The big issue was that Goldman Sachs is looking at Apple as a subscription model ahead, with massive recurring revenues, rather than just being a seller of the top tech gadgets.

If Goldman Sachs’ initial view becomes reality, Apple could have over 50% upside. Even the consensus price target of $148.00 implies over 40% upside from the year-end price of $105.26.

> Year-end price:


Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) had a rough 2015 and many analysts were forced to dial back their initial 2014 targets handily. A recent screen from the Merrill Lynch list of big losers that could pop showed that the largest online and mobile commerce company (by gross merchandise volume) could return to a much better 2016. Alibaba had the highest profile IPO of 2014, but it has lost one-third of its value. Merrill Lynch likes the dominance of Alibaba’s core business and the barriers to entry. What if China’s woes have already begun to look less negative? The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock was at $101.00, but the consensus analyst target was down at $95.59.

If Merrill Lynch is right, that could be almost 25% upside for Alibaba. The consensus analyst target would imply more like 17% upside for 2016. Is it possible that analysts are just still too positive? RBC also featured Alibaba among its top picks for online stocks in 2016.

> Year-end price:

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) is a top biotech favorite of Goldman Sachs. The firm has had a Buy rating on Amgen for a while now, but its more recent $213.00 price target would imply over 30% upside in total return (with dividends) from the $164.00 level, if Goldman Sachs’ upside for the Repatha cholesterol drug pans out. Investors need to consider one key issue here: Goldman Sachs has the highest target of all analysts with price predictions, and the consensus price target is a much more conservative $189.00. This is also an election year, when politicians likely will be targeting drug costs. On that front, Amgen has been targeted over costs in prior years.

If Goldman Sachs is right, Amgen has over 30% upside for 2016. If the average analyst is right, then Amgen’s expected return in 2016 would by closer to 19%. What if everyone is just too optimistic here?

> Year-end price:

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) was the best conglomerate of 2015, and the independent research firm Argus sees far more upside for 2016 out of Jeff Immelt and the GE team. Argus is now has among the highest GE analyst price targets on Wall Street, but that is based on GE’s guidance, asset sales and an aggressive share buyback coming this year.

The firm’s price target was raised to $36.00 from $34.00 right before year’s end, which would have been more than 20% in upside from the lower price at the time. The consensus price target of $31.77 leaves a much more conservative analyst picture for 2016 of only about 5%, if you include GE’s dividend. GE is also one of 24/7 Wall St.’s top 10 stocks for the next decade.

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