With earnings reporting for the second quarter in full swing, and the third quarter of 2019 well underway, 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 market showing the potential for increased volatility as it makes new all-time highs, it makes sense to examine the lists and make some changes. It is very possible the rest of the year could have additional volatility as the political and geopolitical cycle could prove to be very explosive components.
The Merrill Lynch US 1 list is a collection of the company’s Global Research analysts’ best investment ideas, drawn from the universe of Buy-rated, U.S.-listed stocks, including American depository receipts. The list is managed with a goal of providing superior investment performance over the long term.
We screened the list looking for the stocks paying the highest dividends, as rates are going nowhere this year or next, and the total return component of dividend-paying stocks is big.
This company is a telecom component on the Merrill Lynch US 1 list. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is the largest U.S. telecom company. It provides wireless and wireline service to retail, enterprise and wholesale customers. The company’s wireless network serves approximately 124 million mobile connections with 77 million post-paid subscribers. AT&T’s traditional wireline voice business has undergone a period of secular decline due to wireless substitution and cable competition. Through its Warner Media unit, AT&T operates a diversified media and entertainment business.
The company also helps businesses worldwide serve their customers better with mobility and highly secure cloud solutions. Trading at a very cheap 9.4 times estimated 2019 earnings, the company continues to expand its user base, and strong product introductions from smartphone vendors have not only driven traffic but increased device financing plans.
AT&T shareholders receive a rich 6.05% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $37 price target on the stock, while the Wall Street consensus is $35.36. The shares closed trading last Friday at $33.09 apiece.
The Merrill Lynch bank team has remained very positive on this company, and the stock was added to the US 1 list back in February. BB&T Corp. (NYSE: BBT) is a Winston-Salem, North Carolina–based financial services company with more than $200 billion in assets. With a history dating back to the Civil War, it is currently the ninth-largest bank in the United States by deposits and sixth largest by number of branches.
Building on a long tradition of excellence in community banking, BB&T offers a wide range of financial services including retail and commercial banking, investments, insurance, wealth management, asset management, mortgage, corporate banking, capital markets and specialized lending. The company operates over 2,100 financial centers in 15 states and Washington, D.C.
The recent announcement of the merger between BB&T and SunTrust took Wall Street by storm, and when completed it will make the combined company the sixth-largest U.S. bank.
Investors in BB&T enjoy a solid 3.17% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the shares of $58 compares with a posted consensus target of $55.00. The stock was last seen trading at $51.03 a share.