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4 Safe High-Yield Dividend Stocks to Buy for Q4 Volatility

Whether it is tomorrow, October or December, when the Federal Reserve finally raises interest rates a tiny 25 basis points, or one-quarter of 1%, the market most likely sells off. The knee-jerk reaction may even scare investors enough for the indexes to retrace to the August lows. Investors looking to stay in the equity markets but insulate themselves from volatility may want to look at beaten-down high-yielding market leaders.

We screened the Merrill Lynch research universe database for mega-cap stocks that have already been sold-off and pay outstanding dividends. We found four top companies that have a long and successful track record but have been hit hard this year. All four make good sense for growth and income investors, and all are rated Buy at Merrill Lynch.


This company posted solid second-quarter numbers and the rest of the year looks promising. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has to be one of the most ignored dividend plays on Wall Street. In fact, AT&T is the third most underweighted security, and the most underowned by active fund managers, according to Merrill Lynch data.

While growth has been admittedly slower over the past few years, 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, an area that many on Wall Street believe could lead to some earnings weakness.

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Many think that finally closing the DirecTV deal will remove a lot of lingering questions, especially where the company’s big dividend is concerned. It is a good bet that the synergies created by the deal are being underestimated by Wall Street, and many analysts see upside to wireless margins, which were a positive earnings driver in the second quarter.

AT&T investors are paid an outstanding 5.78% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $40, and the Thomson/First Call consensus price target is $37.02. Shares closed Tuesday at $32.86.


The maker of tobacco products and wine has posted very solid numbers through the first half of the year, and the third quarter is looking good as well. Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) is a top mega-cap consumer discretionary stock to buy on Wall Street, and the company’s Marlboro brand remains one of the most recognizable in the world.

Many Wall Street analysts concede that the stock has solid downside support, owing to the generous dividend yield, which remains at a huge premium in relation to the 10-year Treasury rate. Cash flow generation and the return of cash to Altria shareholders remain key facets of the company’s total shareholder return, and the analysts expect support of the strong dividend, which they believe will continue to climb, and strong share repurchase activity.

Altria recently reaffirmed its full-year adjusted earnings outlook. The company said it still expects per-share earnings, excluding non-recurring items such as litigation charges and losses on the early extinguishment of debt, of $2.76 to $2.81. That compares with the current consensus of $2.81.

Altria investors are paid an outstanding 4.18% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $59 price target. The consensus estimate is $57.33. The stock closed Tuesday at $54.11.

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This company has the enviable position of not being the contract target this year with the United Auto Workers union. Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) has reshaped the company’s product line in recent years, and sales have been outstanding. With sales booming not only in the United States, but in China, and six new models being introduced in Russia, the company is expanding market share, while maintaining a competitive pricing structure. Ford posted outstanding earnings for the second quarter and the analysts expect a strong second half of 2015.

The iconic F-150 truck remains the top-selling truck in America, and it has been the top-selling vehicle for the past 33 years, despite strong challenges from the competition. While consumers have bought vehicles in a big way in recent years, replacement continues as low interest rates, dealer incentives and increasing take home pay make a vehicle purchase an easy choice.

Ford investors are paid a very solid 4.19% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is $18. The consensus target is $17.41. Shares closed most recently at $14.31.

Exxon Mobil

This is the world’s largest international integrated oil and gas company, and it reported better second-quarter revenue numbers, but earnings came in below Wall Street estimates. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is an energy sector play that the Merrill Lynch analysts are very positive on long term, as the overall corporate strength of the massive integrated giant plays a significant part in the company’s usually solid earnings reporting pattern.

Merrill Lynch has stressed in the past that the global downstream chemical segment plays a huge part for Exxon. It may be a part that many others on Wall Street do not fully appreciate as the segment contributes an estimated 16% of overall total revenue. A very solid reason for adding the stock to a long-term growth portfolio is that the company has consistently demonstrated disciplined investing, operational excellence and technological innovation.

Exxon investors are paid a very sizable 4.03% dividend. The Merrill Lynch target for the energy giant is $100. The consensus price objective is lower at $85.22. Shares closed trading on Tuesday at $72.86, down almost 15% for the year.

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All these large cap leaders offer investors the kind of total return that can add up to long-term gains. In addition, to enhance total return investors can write covered calls on the positions and generate extra income. With all trading way below 52 week highs, they make good sense now.

By Lee Jackson