4 Very Safe Dividend Stocks to Buy to Ride Out the 2016 Political Cycle

With the probable feature card set for the fight for the presidency, one thing is for sure. Americans will be blitzed again from now until November with political rhetoric that likely will prove to be mind-numbing. While historically candidates from both parties have tended to tack more toward the center after they secure the nomination, that won’t stop them from saying bombastic things that could prompt market volatility.

With interest rates remaining low, and the odds for an interest rate hike in June only 10%, there is a good chance that the Federal Reserve will try to remain cautious until after the election. The probability of a hike in September is only 35%, so there is a fair chance they won’t raise until December, after things have been settled.

We screened the Merrill Lynch research database for safe stocks rated Buy that pay solid dividends and that likely wouldn’t be affected regardless of who wins the election. We found four that make good sense for investors to consider now.

Exxon Mobil

This company remains one of Merrill Lynch’s top 10 picks for 2016. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is an energy sector play that the Merrill Lynch analysts are very positive on long-term, as the overall corporate strength of the massive integrated giant plays a significant part in the company’s usually solid earnings reporting pattern and in maintaining dividend coverage.

The company’s global downstream chemical segment plays a huge part for Exxon. It may be a part that many on Wall Street don’t fully appreciate as the segment contributes an estimated 16% of overall total revenue. Some very solid reasons for adding the stock to a long-term growth portfolio are that the company has consistently demonstrated disciplined investing, operational excellence and technological innovation.

Exxon investors are paid a very sizable 3.41% dividend. Merrill Lynch recently raised its price target for the stock to $96 from $95. The Thomson/First Call consensus price objective is $84.43, but shares closed on Thursday at $88.04.

Kraft Heinz

This top consumer staple stock makes good sense for nervous investors and is another of the Merrill Lynch top 10 ideas for 2016. Kraft Heinz Co. (NYSE: KHC) is the third-largest food and beverage company in North America and the fifth-largest in the world, with eight $1 billion or more brands. A globally trusted producer of delicious foods, Kraft Heinz provides high quality, great taste and nutrition for all eating occasions, whether at home, in restaurants or on the go. The company’s iconic brands include Kraft, Heinz, ABC, Capri Sun, Classico, Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Lunchables, Maxwell House, Ore-Ida, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Planters, Plasmon, Quero, Weight Watchers Smart Ones and Velveeta.

Consumer staples are expected to continue to continue to do well this year, and this is one of the top companies in the sector. The company reported very solid first-quarter earnings this week, and analysts across Wall Street are generally bullish on the potential for solid earnings continuing through 2016.

Kraft Heinz shareholders are paid a tasty 2.8% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target was raised to $90 from $85, and the consensus target is at even higher at $90.29. The stock closed most recently at $82.97, up almost 4% on the day.

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