5 Ultra-Safe Stocks to Own for a Potentially Volatile Fall

The slow trading of late summer is going to come to an end with the Labor Day holiday upon us, and experienced investors know well what that means: The volatile and often turbulent months of September and October are on deck, and for a market that hasn’t had a 5% correction since the summer of 2016, things could get dicey. Toss into the pot the potential for geopolitical situations to unfold, and now is the time to be safe rather than sorry.

One good idea for 24/7 readers is to check your portfolio for gains in big momentum stocks, many of which are very crowded. It may make sense to at least sell half and move those funds to safer, dividend-paying stocks that should hold up better if the market has a seasonal fall sell-off.

We screened the Merrill Lynch research database, and found five ultra-safe companies rated Buy that also have the firm’s best volatility risk ratings. While maybe not the most exciting stocks to own, they should hold up well in a big sell-off.


This top dividend payer is a very safe consumer staples play for investors. Colgate-Palmolive Co. (NYSE: CL) continues to deliver solid execution and is one of the best-positioned companies in its sector, given its strong brands in attractive categories, particularly oral care.

Over half of Colgate’s total revenues (52%) are derived in faster-growth emerging economies, and the company maintains leading or near-leading market shares across Brazil, Russia, India and China. While those have slowed over the last year, a pickup in growth could be coming, especially with a very weak dollar making products attractive overseas.

While the second-quarter results were somewhat disappointing, the analysts remain positive and said this after the report:

We expect growth to improve sequentially as one-offs lap and comparisons ease. Fiscal year 2017 estimates are lowered -2c to $2.90 on organic sales -1 point to +1.6%, lower gross margins and higher ad spending, offset by lower SG&A and tax. Reiterate Buy on long-term attractiveness despite near-term challenges.

Colgate-Palmolive investors are paid a 2.23% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $80, and the consensus target is $75.68. Shares traded Friday morning at $71.70.


The world’s largest international integrated oil and gas company remains a top Wall Street energy pick. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) explores for and produces crude oil and natural gas in the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania. It also manufactures and markets commodity petrochemicals, including olefins, aromatics, polyethylene and polypropylene plastics, and specialty products, and it transports and sells crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products.

The company posted some messy second-quarter results, and Merrill Lynch feels the stock is still an outstanding place for investors to put money now. The team also cites the ability of the company to maintain and cover the cash dividend at lower oil prices as a key positive, and a recent report said this:

Management could do a better job of highlighting unusual items; on review the second quarter met consensus in contrast with a perceived miss. Analysis of operating cash flow suggests Exxon had a second quarter cash break-even of $35 although capex is running 33% below guidance. With $2 billion of free cash in the second quarter before working capital, the company remains a low risk strategic route to reweighting energy portfolios.

Shareholders receive a 4.04% dividend. The $90 Merrill Lynch price objective compares with the consensus estimate of $83.03. Shares were last seen at $76.35.

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