Politics Sure to Make Summer Markets Volatile: 4 Safe Dividend Stocks to Buy Now

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Tuesday’s big sell-off notwithstanding, it is pretty clear that after a big run, we could be in for some volatility, especially this summer. The one thing that the markets almost always respond negatively to, and this is even more so than bad news, is uncertainty. And no matter how you slice it, we won’t know who will be president until after the election in November. It looks to be a Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump match up, and the fireworks likely are just beginning.

It probably make sense now to move out of high volatility momentum type stocks into more conservative dividend-paying companies that will continue to crank out solid earnings regardless of who is president. We screened the Merrill Lynch research universe for companies that reported solid first-quarter numbers, pay a good dividend and are rated Buy. Four are good ideas now.

AT&T

This company had an outstanding first quarter from a stock price standpoint and could be poised to go higher. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is the world’s largest provider of pay TV, with TV customers in the United States and 11 Latin American countries. In the United States, the AT&T wireless network has the nation’s self-described strongest 4G LTE signal and most reliable 4G LTE. The company also helps businesses worldwide serve their customers better with mobility and highly secure cloud solutions.

With its shares trading at a very cheap 12.5 times estimated 2016 earnings, the company continues to expand its user base, and strong product introductions from smartphone vendors have not only driven traffic but increased device financing plans.

AT&T has been focusing on the IP VPN and Ethernet services. This outstanding business model, along with the decline of Verizon’s market share in the arena, has helped the company meaningfully grow its revenues from strategic business services. Apart from taking appropriate technical measures, the company has collaborated with big cloud service providers like Amazon Web Service and data center operators to provide Ethernet connections.

The company reported adjusted first-quarter earnings of $0.72 per share on revenue of $40.5 billion back in April. Its revenue rose 24% from the year-earlier period primarily due to the July 2015 acquisition of DirecTV for $49 billion in equity value. The company added 2.3 million wireless subscribers during the first quarter. About 328,000 of the additions were DirecTV net adds. The company’s Entertainment Group broadband grew with 186,000 IP broadband net adds.

AT&T investors receive a huge 4.9% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $42, and the Thomson/First Call consensus estimate is $39.55. Shares closed Tuesday at $38.91.


General Electric

This iconic blue chip industrial has been on a strong roll, and the currency tailwinds may help to continue the winning ways. General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) is a highly diversified, global industrial corporation. Its products and services include power generation equipment, aircraft engines, locomotives, medical equipment, appliances, commercial leasing and personal finance. The Merrill Lynch analysts feel that the American giant will be a large player in the efficient energy field.

The company is in the middle of a huge plan that is scaling back many of its operations and returning capital to shareholders. GE has signed deals to sell $166 billion worth of assets in its GE Capital segment. Of that total, $146 billion has closed. GE Capital paid a $7.5 billion dividend to the parent company in the first quarter and is on track to contribute $18 billion in the fiscal year.

The company posted solid first-quarter numbers that were somewhat hampered by slower organic growth. GE does an estimated 52.9% of its total sales overseas, so a weaker dollar surely could help the rest of this year and into 2017.

GE investors receive 3.0% dividend. The $33 Merrill Lynch price target is in line with the consensus price objective of at $33.17. Shares closed Tuesday at $30.63.