20 Stocks to Own for 2019

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1. Amazon

Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has several moats that make it hard for competition to effectively attack it. Despite the tech sell-off, its shares remain recommended by most analysts who follow the company. With a market cap of $787 billion, it ranks first among U.S. public companies, ahead Alphabet and Microsoft.

Amazon is best known for its huge e-commerce operations. However, it also operates one of the world’s largest streaming media businesses through its Prime subscription service, and its consumer electronics products have become a critical part of its revenue base. Perhaps more important than any of these, Amazon leads the hot cloud computing market with its Amazon Web Service division.

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2. Verizon

Safe harbor stocks are defined by those of companies that have large market share, huge revenue and rock-solid balance sheets. Most investors add dividend payouts that are long-lived and create a large yield. Few stocks fit this role as well as Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). Verizon dominates the wireless market in the United States along with AT&T. Between them, they have little competition.

Last year, Verizon made $30 billion on $126 billion in revenue. Although neither of these figures are rising rapidly, the company has a $2.41 payout, which is a yield of 4.21%. Its $113 billion in debt is spread over a payment period that should not affect its margins.

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3. McDonald’s

McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) is another safe harbor stock. It’s 14,000-store footprint puts it at the lead among fast-food companies in America, and it has over 37,000 locations worldwide. In the most recent quarter, same-store sales worldwide jumped by a healthy 4.2%. McDonald’s has staked out a strong position in the breakfast market, a challenge to Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Many of its locations operate 24 hours a day.

McDonald’s is famous for share buybacks. In the three years that ended in 2016, its share repurchases totaled $20 billion. McDonald’s $4.64 dividend drives a yield of 2.58%.

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4. Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) currently ranks as America’s second most valuable company based on market cap. Its success in the cloud, hardware and traditional server and operating systems has driven a turnaround under CEO Satya Nadella, who took over the job in 2014. In the most recent quarter, revenue rose a strong 19% to $29.1 billion. Revenue in its Intelligent Cloud business was $8.6 billion, which was a 24% increase.

Microsoft also has put a huge sum into buybacks. In the most recent quarter, the buyback plus dividend commitments reached $6.1 billion. With a $1.84 dividend, Microsoft sports a 1.80% yield, unusual for a tech growth company

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5. Merck

Shares of Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) are up more than any other of the Dow Jones industrial average components this year, higher by 35%. The pharmaceutical giant posted strong third-quarter earnings. Sales were $10.8 billion, up from $10.3 billion in the year-before period. Net income results were much stronger. Merck made $2 billion, compared to a loss of $50 million.

The pipeline for its oncology drugs is highly promising. Merck reported sales of its Keytruda cancer treatment was the cornerstone of this improvement. Merck also announced a $10 billion share buyback and raised its dividend roughly 15% to $2.20 a share.