Merrill Lynch Makes Big Changes to Top-Performing Growth Portfolio

Lee Jackson

This top homebuilder has a wide product portfolio. PulteGroup Inc. (NYSE: PHM) is one of the largest public homebuilders in the United States, delivering over 21,000 homes in 2017. The company is also well-positioned in approximately 50 markets in 26 states, targeting the first-time, move-up and active adult buyer groups.

PulteGroup primarily builds single-family detached homes, although it also constructs townhouses, condominiums and duplexes. The company owns a captive financial services business that provides mortgage financing, title, insurance and closing services.

Pulte Homes investors are paid a 1.17% dividend. Merrill Lynch has set its price objective at $44, while the posted consensus target price for the shares is $35.82. The stock closed Friday’s trading at $30.98 per share.

United Rentals

This stock has rallied smartly but still has solid upside potential, and it is also on the Merrill Lynch US 1 list. United Rentals Inc. (NYSE: URI) is the largest equipment rental company in the world. The company has an integrated network of 876 rental locations in 49 states and 10 Canadian provinces.

With approximately 12,200 employees, the company serves construction and industrial customers, utilities, municipalities, homeowners and others. It offers for rent approximately 3,100 classes of equipment for rent.

The Merrill Lynch price target for the shares is $186, and the Wall Street estimate was last seen at $180.29. The stock closed trading at $153.23 on Friday.


This is a big player in the veterinarian world. Zoetis Inc. (NYSE: ZTS) engages in the discovery, development, manufacture and commercialization of animal health medicines and vaccines for livestock and companion animals in the United States and internationally.

The company offers anti-infectives that prevent, kill or slow the growth of bacteria, fungi, or protozoa; vaccines, which are biological preparations to prevent diseases of the respiratory, gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts or induce a specific immune response; and parasiticides that prevent or eliminate external and internal parasites, such as fleas, ticks and worms.

It also provides medicated feed additives that offer medicines to livestock; veterinarian solutions for anesthesia, pain management and the diagnosis of diabetes; and other pharmaceutical products, including pain and sedation, oncology, antiemetic, allergy and dermatology, and reproductive products. In addition, it offers other product categories comprising nutritionals and agribusiness services, as well as products and services in complementary areas consisting of biodevices, diagnostics and genetics.

Shareholders are paid just a 0.62% dividend. The $97 Merrill Lynch price target is well above the posted consensus target of $86.50. The shares closed Friday at $81.56 apiece.

These 10 solid growth ideas are all in one portfolio at Merrill Lynch. They are good stocks for investors who have a long-term holding view and those looking for companies that are somewhat dominant in their specific sectors.