4 Top Blue Chip Dividend Stocks to Buy and Hold Forever

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With the presumptive candidates for the presidential election in place, one thing investors now need to contemplate is what stocks will do better under a Clinton or a Trump presidency. One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of fireworks before election day on November 8, and the smart thing to do is steer your portfolio toward stocks that will do well regardless of who is the ultimate winner.

With that in mind, we screened the Merrill Lynch research database for dividend paying stocks rated Buy, that have shown long-term success, and have consistently raised their dividends and returned cash to shareholders. We found four that make the list that are outstanding choices.

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 4.92% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $42, and the Thomson/First Call consensus estimate is $39.55. Shares closed Friday at $38.99.


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 Mobil is also a very strong company from a financial standpoint. It has an AA+ credit rating and an outstanding debt-to-equity ratio of 0.23. Exxon Mobil is free cash flow positive, with the company reporting free cash flow of $6.5 billion in 2015 and management cutting the capital expenditures budget for 2016. That is a sound investment to buy and hold forever.

Exxon investors receive a 3.41% dividend. Merrill Lynch recently raised the target price to $96 from $95. The consensus price objective is $84.43. Shares closed on Friday at $88.51.