Merrill Lynch Makes Huge Late Summer Changes to US 1 Stock List

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With second-quarter earnings reporting all but over, and the summer winding down, many of the top companies we follow on Wall Street are making some changes to the lists of their high-conviction stock picks for clients. With the various indexes hitting or close to all-time highs again, it makes sense to examine the lists and make some changes, as the rest of the year could have additional volatility as the political and geopolitical cycle could prove to be very explosive component.

In a recent research note, the analysts at Merrill Lynch make a big move by adding AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) to the firm’s well-respected US 1 list of stocks to Buy. Williams Co. Inc. (NYSE: WMB) was also added to the list, while American Electric Power Co. Inc. (NYSE: AEP) was removed, though it remains rated Buy at Merrill Lynch.

Both of the companies added to the list pay big dividends, and are reasonably conservative. These may make sense as we head to the more dangerous fall months, and with the market looking fully valued on many metrics.

We screened the Merrill Lynch US 1 list for other good total-return dividend-paying stocks and found four that are solid choices for more conservative accounts now.

DowDupont

This result of a blockbuster merger in 2017 has emerged bigger and stronger, and the stock is on the Merrill Lynch US 1 list. DowDupont Inc. (NYSE: DWDP) is a diversified chemical company with $79 billion in sales in 2017, and it was formed as a result of the merger of Dow and DuPont.

The company is organized in three principal divisions: Agriculture (20% of EBITDA), Material Science (55%) and Specialty Products (25%). It intends to separate these into three public entities by 2020.

The stock has underperformed this year, and the concerns over the trade issues with China are continuing to keep shares under pressure. The stock is down over 15% from highs that were printed in January.

Shareholders are paid a 2.2% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price objective for the shares is $84, and that compares with a consensus analyst price target of $81.48. The stock closed Tuesday’s trading at $68.83 a share.

Exxon Mobil

This remains a top energy pick on the US 1 list at Merrill Lynch. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is the world’s largest international integrated oil and gas company. It explores for and produces crude oil and natural gas in the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

The company 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.

Exxon also reported quarterly profits that fell short of analysts’ expectations, marking the fourth time in the past five periods the company has disappointed. The miss was largely due to weaker earnings in Exxon’s refining and marketing segment due to heavier-than-anticipated maintenance and operational problems. Exxon’s business producing oil and gas bolstered earnings, with the company saying it is favoring oil output over gas drilling in its U.S. shale fields.

Investors in Exxon are paid a very solid 4.16% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a price objective of $110, while the posted consensus target price is $88.88. The shares ended trading on Tuesday at $78.83 apiece.