Investing

4 Top Analyst Stock Picks With Dividend Hikes Expected This Week

After years of a low interest rate environment, many investors have turned to equities not only for the growth potential but also for solid and dependable dividends, which help to provide an income stream. What this equates to is total return, which is one of the most powerful investment strategies going.

We like to remind our 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%: a 10% for the increase in stock price and 3% for the dividends paid.

Four top companies are expected to raise their dividends this week, so we screened our 24/7 Wall St. research universe and found that all are rated Buy at some of the top analysts. While it is always possible that not all of them do indeed raise their dividends, analysts expect them to, and the data is based generally on past increases in the firm’s dividend payouts.

It is important to remember, though, that no single analyst report should be used in making a buying or selling decision.

Agilent

This stock has been on fire and is a solid holding for growth investors with a degree of risk tolerance. Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) provides application-focused solutions to the life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets worldwide.

Its Life Sciences and Applied Markets segment offers liquid and gas chromatography systems and components; liquid and gas chromatography mass spectrometry systems; inductively coupled plasma mass and optical emission spectrometry instruments; atomic absorption instruments; microwave plasma-atomic emission spectrometry instruments; raman spectroscopy; cell analysis plate-based assays; flow cytometer; real-time cell analyzer; cell imaging systems; microplate readers; laboratory software, information management and analytics; laboratory automation and robotic systems; dissolution testing; vacuum pumps; and measurement technologies.

The Diagnostics and Genomics segment provides arrays for DNA mutation detection, genotyping, gene copy number determination, identification of gene rearrangements, DNA methylation profiling and gene expression profiling, as well as sequencing target enrichment, genetic data management and interpretation support software. It also provides equipment to produce synthesized oligonucleotide.

Shareholders currently receive a 0.49% yield. The company is expected to raise the dividend from $0.194 per share to $0.211.

Cowen has a $180 price target on Agilent Technologies stock, while the Wall Street consensus target is $175.88. The shares were trading on Tuesday just over $161.

Merck

This remains a leading health care stock for conservative investors. Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) offers therapeutic and preventive agents to treat cardiovascular issues, type 2 diabetes, asthma, nasal allergy symptoms, allergic rhinitis, chronic hepatitis C virus, HIV-1 infection, fungal infections, intra-abdominal infections, hypertension, arthritis and pain, inflammatory, osteoporosis, male pattern hair loss and fertility diseases.

The company also provides neuromuscular blocking agents for use in surgery, anti-bacterial products for skin and skin structure infections, cholesterol modifying medicines, non-sedating antihistamine and vaginal contraceptive products.