4 Defensive Dividend Stocks to Own as World Events Rock Markets

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This is another utility rated Buy at Merrill Lynch that investors can feel super-comfortable owning now. PG&E Corp. (NYSE: PCG) is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. The company operates 141,215 circuit miles of electric distribution lines; 18,616 circuit miles of interconnected transmission lines; 42,141 miles of natural gas distribution pipelines; and 6,438 miles of gas transportation pipelines. It operates generation facilities with energy sources such as nuclear, hydroelectric, fossil fuel-fired and photovoltaic.

PG&E shareholders are paid a 3.45% dividend. The $57 Merrill Lynch price target is higher than the consensus number at $51.12. Shares closed trading on Wednesday at $52.72.

Verizon Communications

This top telecommunications company also resides on the Merrill Lynch US 1 list. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is a global leader in delivering the digital world. Verizon Wireless operates America’s self-described most reliable wireless network, with 109.5 million retail connections nationwide. Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America’s most advanced fiber-optic network, and it delivers integrated business solutions to customers worldwide.

Wall Street has applauded Frontier’s acquisition of Verizon’s wireline operations in California, Florida and Texas, which is expected to be completed at the end of March. Many feel that focusing on the higher margin segments at the company makes sense, and the sale to Frontier is a huge cash boost to the balance sheet.

Verizon investors are paid a massive 4.96% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $55. The consensus price objective is $50.19, and shares closed Wednesday at $45.52.

For worried growth and income investors, all these top stocks makes good sense for conservative portfolios. The total return potential is solid, and the downside risk is far less than with aggressive momentum stocks.