Investing

Merrill Lynch Adds 3 Top Stocks to High-Quality Dividend Yield Screen

We have talked about the underperformance of dividend-yielding stocks a great deal over the past two months. The brutal beat down of the markets since the start of the year, the recent rally notwithstanding, have refocused investors on the merits of quality companies that pay consistent dividends.

In a new research report, Merrill Lynch adds three companies to its High-Quality Dividend Yield Screen of stocks. In their own words: “The screen seeks to identify high quality stocks with secure and above-market dividend yields that are aligned with our analysts’ fundamental outlook.” This is an ideal group of stocks for long-term, patient total return investors as they are outperforming the S&P 500.

Here are the three stocks the Merrill Lynch team added. All are rated Buy at the firm.

Procter & Gamble

This stock is still down since this time last year, partly because the company has a very large 65% of sales directed to foreign customers. That should improve as the dollar run looks to be slowing down. Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) is added to the Merrill Lynch screen and is a solid consumer staples stock to consider, especially for conservative investors. The company sells lots of run-of-the-mill household items that are essential for everyday life, but it is not content to stand on its laurels.

P&G actually is innovative in its product development process and uses that to help ensure future growth and cash flow. This should provide investors years of steady growth and dividends. While currency headwinds have weighed on recent earnings and projections, the dollar may be topping out this fall, and that would bode well for the future.


The company posted very solid fourth-quarter results in January, and despite earning expectations that have been lowered somewhat, the Merrill Lynch team feels comfortable that the stock can continue the current positive momentum.

Shareholders are paid a very solid 3.21% dividend. Merrill Lynch has as $85 price target, and the Thomson/First Call consensus price target is $83.10. The stock closed Wednesday at $82.55 per share.

Target

This top retailer was added to the screen and could be a beneficiary of the much lower gasoline prices. Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) operates as a general merchandise retailer in the United States. It offers household essentials, including pharmacy, beauty, personal care, baby care, cleaning and paper products; music, movies, books, computer software, sporting goods and toys; electronics, such as video game hardware and software; and apparel for women, men, boys, girls, toddlers, infants and newborns, as well as intimate apparel, jewelry, accessories and shoes.

The company also provides food and pet supplies, comprising dry grocery, dairy, frozen food, beverages, candy, snacks, deli, bakery, meat, produce and pet supplies, and home furnishings and décor consisting of furniture, lighting, kitchenware, small appliances, home décor, bed and bath, home improvement and automotive products, as well as seasonal merchandise, such as patio furniture and holiday décor.