It may be hard to believe, but on August 23, according to Merrill Lynch, the current bull market will be the longest in history, reaching back to the lows printed in March of 2009. While some would argue that the actual secular bull market didn’t start until the S&P 500 broke out above 1,550 in March of 2013, that in and of itself, was over five years ago.
A new Merrill Lynch report acknowledges that while the bull market is somewhat long-in-the-tooth, missing the final year of a bull market can be a big mistake for investors.
The report noted this:
Two of our bear market signposts, the typical precursors to a market peak, reversed. This brings our signposts triggered down from 74% to 63%, the lowest level since the start of this year. In our view, the cycle is not over. Our year-end target for the S&P 500 remains 3000, and our sector tweaks underscore our view that market leadership could broaden out over the coming six to twelve months.
In their current asset allocation, Merrill Lynch is overweight information technology, health care, financials, industrials and materials. We picked one Buy-rated dividend-paying U.S. stock from each sector. They all make sense for growth and income accounts with some risk tolerance.
Shares of Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) have traded down over 15% from highs posted in January. This top bank has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. It provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services and wealth management.
Trading at a still very cheap 9.25 times estimated 2019 earnings, the stock looks very reasonable in what is becoming a pricey stock market. A continuing stock buyback program at the bank is also positive.
The banking giant reported weaker-than-expected quarterly revenue. The company’s earnings per share, however, handily topped estimates.
Citigroup investors are paid a 2.57% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $84. The Wall Street consensus price objective is $83.52, and shares were last seen trading at $69.25.
Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) made a gigantic splash last year with its $5.5 billion purchase of Anacor Pharmaceuticals. This top global biopharmaceutical company has a diversified portfolio of products and pipeline candidates and is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world as measured by market capitalization and revenue. It also is a component of the Dow Jones industrial average.
The company’s commercial operations are bifurcated into two business segments: Innovative Health, which focuses on the development and commercialization of medicines and vaccines, as well as consumer health care products, in various therapeutic areas, and Essential Health, which offers branded generic products, biosimilars, anti-infectives and other products without marketing patent protection.
Investors in Pfizer are paid a very solid 3.34% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a price objective of $43, and the posted consensus price objective is $40.60. The shares traded early Wednesday at $40.80 apiece.