5 Merrill Lynch Equity Income Stocks With Huge Total Return Potential

One of the components of investing success has always been buying companies that pay dependable dividends. The reason dividends are critical to long-term investing success is that they help to cushion investors during periods when the market is weak, and they can add to gains when the overall markets rally and all boats benefit from the rising tide.

We always like to remind readers about the impact total return has on portfolios because it is one of the best ways to help improve the chances for overall investing success. Again total return is the combined increase in a stock’s value plus dividends. For instance, if you buy a stock at $20 that pays a 3% dividend, and it goes up to $22 in a year, your total return is 13% — 10% for the increase in stock price and 3% for the dividends paid.

One good vehicle for total return is the Merrill Lynch Equity Income portfolio. We screened the top 10 holdings for companies rated Buy at Merrill Lynch and found five that look like excellent choices.

Lockheed Martin

This is a top aerospace and defense stock to buy, and many on Wall Street are expecting a very solid continuation of U.S. and foreign defense spending. Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) researches, designs, develops, manufactures, integrates, operates and sustains advanced technology systems, products and services. It also provides a wide range of defense electronics products and IT services.

Being the Pentagon’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin offers a diverse portfolio of global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies. Its leveraged presence in the Army, Air Force, Navy and IT programs guarantees a steady inflow of follow-on orders, not only from the U.S. government but also from many foreign allies of the nation.

Despite posting outstanding earnings last week the stock got absolutely nailed and is offering investors an incredible entry point. Merrill Lynch noted this after the report:

According to Lockheed Martin, the F-35 is on track to meet its planned delivery of 90 aircraft per year. We believe the program provides long-term & visible growth for Lockheed. In our view, any sentiment-driven weakness in the stock is a particularly attractive buying opportunity, given the strong Department of Defense budget.

Investors receive a 2.48% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price objective is $400, and the Wall Street consensus price target is $375.37. The shares closed Friday at $324.04.

Royal Dutch Shell

This major integrated company is based in Europe. 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.

In addition, the company engages in the conversion of crude oil into a range of refined products, including gasoline, diesel, heating oil, aviation fuel, marine fuel, liquefied natural gas for transport, lubricants, bitumen and sulphur; production and sale of petrochemicals for industrial customers; refining; trading and supply; pipelines and marketing; and alternative energy businesses.

Shell’s fourth consecutive quarter of dividend coverage at lower oil prices helps reaffirm the positive investment case for the company. Earnings have continued to surprise Wall Street to the upside, and analysts are bullish on the company’s cost reduction targets.

Investors receive a 4.44% dividend. Merrill Lynch has an $82 price objective, while the consensus figure is $78.16. The stock closed Friday at $71.99.

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