With earnings reports for the fourth quarter all but over, and the second 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 starting to show some volatility, it makes sense to examine the lists and make some changes, as the rest of the year could have increasing volatility as the political and geopolitical cycle could prove to be very explosive component.
We regularly watch the Merrill Lynch US 1 list of top stock recommendations for changes, and while no new companies were added this week, we did note that some on the list tend to lean to the more conservative side, and with good reason. Despite the big first-quarter rally, many investors, both large and small, have been selling the strength, so it makes sense to look for low volatility and stocks that pay reliable dividends.
We found five companies on the US 1 list that offer a degree of safety and reliable dividends.
This stock has been absolutely hammered and has returned the Merrill Lynch US 1 list. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is the world’s largest provider of pay TV, with TV customers in the United States and 11 Latin American countries. In the United States, the AT&T wireless network has the nation’s self-described strongest 4G LTE signal and most reliable 4G LTE.
This telecom giant 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.
The company’s fourth-quarter revenue of $47.99 billion fell short of analyst estimates. AT&T also reported net additions of 134,000 phone subscribers, well below analyst estimates of 308,000. The company also lost 403,000 satellite TV subscribers and 14% of its DirecTV Now streaming subscribers in the quarter.
AT&T shareholders are paid a rich 6.56% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $37 price target for the shares, which compares with the Wall Street consensus last seen at $35.36. The stock closed trading on Thursday at $31.12 a share.
The Merrill Lynch bank team has remained very positive on this company, and the stock was added to the US 1 list last week. 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.
BB&T investors are paid a solid 3.18% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a price target of $58 for the shares, while the posted consensus target price is $55.51. The shares closed Thursday’s trading at $50.97 apiece.