If it’s been said once, it’s been said a million times over the years: Wall Street strategists and portfolio managers tend to follow the herd. For the past couple of months the herd has championed European stocks as better buys now than U.S. stocks. There are some very good reasons, as they are arguably cheaper as a whole, and the economies of the major European countries appear to be fully on the mend.
Some of the evidence lies in the flow of funds, as European stocks have experienced 16 straight weeks of inflows, versus two straight weeks of outflows from North America. Toss in the rising political uncertainty here, and the rational looks even stronger.
We screened the Merrill Lynch research database for the top European stocks that pay a dividend and are rated Buy. We found five that look appealing.
British American Tobacco
This conglomerate got bigger with a planned acquisition of Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI), set to close in the third quarter of 2017. British American Tobacco PLC (NYSE: BTI) is the largest European tobacco company and the second-largest listed global tobacco company.
Completing the purchase of Reynolds would create the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco business, based on net sales, and it would combine companies with brands that include Camel, Lucky Strike, Newport and Pall Mall. It comes as the industry faces a shift toward so-called next-generation products, such as e-cigarettes and vaping products.
Shareholders are paid a 3.25% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $78.59, and the Wall Street consensus target is $74.05. The stock closed last Friday at $66.32.
This top global pharmaceutical could offer outstanding total return for investors as solid portfolio holding. GlaxoSmithKline PLC (NYSE: GSK) offers pharmaceutical products in the therapeutic areas, including respiratory, anti-virals, central nervous system, cardiovascular and urogenital, metabolic, anti-bacterials, and emesis, dermatology, rare diseases, immuno-inflammation, vaccines, and HIV. It also provides consumer healthcare products in wellness, oral health, nutrition, and skin health areas.
Last year the company announced that the dividend would stay at its current level through 2017, a solid pledge for those seeking security. Also, the FDA approved the company’s Nucala add-on product for severe asthma with a very broad label. In addition, its ViiV Healthcare unit also reported promising data for its HIV treatments. GlaxoSmithKline plans to submit up to 20 new regulatory filings within the next five years, which confirms a very strong pipeline.
Shareholders receive a 4.71% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $48 price target. The consensus price objective is $47, and shares closed on Friday at $42.16.
This beer company has an extremely well-known product worldwide. Heineken N.V., which is traded over the counter, is now the third-largest brewer globally by volume and is the most international in terms of geographical diversity. Despite this, Heineken still realizes around half of its sales in Europe. It is controlled by Heineken Holding N.V. with a 50.005% stake. The Heineken family maintains overall group control through its ownership of L’Arche Holding S.A., which holds 50.001% of Heineken Holding.
Shareholders receive a 1.65% dividend. The $49 Merrill Lynch price target is the same the consensus target. Shares ended Friday at $42.45.
This top financial stock makes good sense for investors looking for value. ING Groep N.V. (NYSE: ING) operates through Retail Netherlands, Retail Belgium, Retail Germany, Retail Other and Wholesale Banking segments. The company accepts various deposits, such as current and savings accounts; and offers business lending, consumer lending and lease products.
ING also provides mortgages; corporate, structured and real estate financing services; financial markets products; and cash management, transaction and trade finance services, as well as working capital solutions. It operates in the Netherlands, Belgium, elsewhere in Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia and Australia.
ING investors receive a 3.85% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target and the consensus target both are $16.20. The shares closed most recent at $15.09.
Royal Dutch Shell
This company has survived the plunge in oil pricing as good as or better than any other major integrated stock. Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE: RDS-A) operates as an independent oil and gas company worldwide through its Upstream and Downstream segments. The company explores for and extracts crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids.
Royal Dutch Shell also converts natural gas to liquids to provide fuels and other products; markets and trades crude oil and natural gas; transports oil; liquefies and transports gas; extracts bitumen from mined oil sands and converts it to synthetic crude oil; and generates electricity from wind energy.
The company reported weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter results, as profits in its downstream business slipped on depressed refining margins. Still, revenues were up 11% year over year.
Royal Dutch Shell investors receive a huge 6.06% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is $60, and the consensus price target is $62.03. The shares closed Friday at $52.73.
Five top companies from very different industries, all of which may become increasingly in demand as investors look for the top European stocks that trade in the United States.
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