Merrill Lynch Out With Top US Stock Picks for Q3

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While the expectations for the second-quarter earnings season are hardly elevated, and many companies are expected to use the Brexit as a reason for perhaps lowering forward guidance, one thing is for sure: some are getting nervous. With global interest rates plunging, central banks have pushed investors into riskier stocks, and one Wall Street firm we cover is taking a very defensive stance for the third quarter.

A new Merrill Lynch report offers the firm’s top 10 ideas for the third quarter. Eight are buys and two are listed as underperformers. What we found interesting is the firm’s very defensive posture. It should be noted that Merrill Lynch has been somewhat bearish this year, and with good reason. While the Brexit is over, we still face the political season and other items that could lead to uncertain and perhaps unstable macro backdrops.

Here are the eight Merrill Lynch top U.S. ideas for the third quarter.

AT&T

After an outstanding first quarter from a stock price standpoint, this stock 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 shares trading at a very cheap 14.3 times estimated 2017 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 investors receive a 4.42% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $46, and the Thomson/First Call consensus target is $39.56. Shares closed Tuesday at $43.35.

Gaming and Leisure Properties

This is a very unique and interesting way to play the gambling sector. Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc. (NASDAQ: GLPI) is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that is engaged in the business of acquiring, financing and owning real estate property to be leased to gaming operators in “triple net” lease arrangements, pursuant to which the tenant is responsible for all facility maintenance and insurance required in connection with the leased properties and the business conducted on the leased properties, taxes levied on or with respect to the leased properties and all utilities and other services necessary or appropriate for the leased properties and the business conducted therein.

Shareholders receive an outstanding 6.4% distribution. Merrill Lynch has a $37 price target. The consensus target is $35.38, and shares closed Tuesday at $35.06.

Lowe’s

Many on Wall Street feel this company deserves a premium multiple to its peers, and it is also a top third-quarter pick. Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) operates as a home improvement retailer, offering products for maintenance, repair, remodeling and home decorating. Categories include kitchens and appliances; lumber and building materials; tools and hardware; fashion fixtures; rough plumbing and electrical; lawn and garden; seasonal living; paint; home fashions; storage and cleaning; flooring; millwork; and outdoor power equipment. The company also offers installation services through independent contractors in various product categories.

Lowe’s investors receive a 1.76% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price objective is $94. The consensus target is $86.83. Shares closed Tuesday at $79.42.