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Top Wall Street analysts pick these dividend stocks for solid returns

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MCDSTXPXDCOPCVX

Michael Wirth, CEO of Chevron.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

When times get rocky for the stock market, dividends can offer investors a measure of stability in the form of portfolio income.

Here are five attractive dividend stocks, according to Wall Street’s top experts on TipRanks, a platform that ranks analysts based on their past performance.

Chevron

Energy giant ChevronCVX) earnings declined in the second quarter of 2023, as energy prices have cooled down compared to last year when the Russia-Ukraine conflict sent oil and gas prices soaring.

Nonetheless, Goldman Sachs analyst Neil Mehta recently upgraded Chevron to buy from hold, citing leading capital returns and inflection in free cash flow next year. He raised his price target for CVX stock to $187 from $166.

Mehta stated that Chevron lagged its key rivals over the past two to three years due to issues related to upstream execution and lower refining exposure compared to Exxon. However, the analyst said that some of the upstream execution risks have been addressed, with major projects in Tengiz at 98% completion and Permian volumes growing better than anticipated in Q2 2023.

Regarding capital returns, Mehta noted that Chevron has grown its dividends for more than 25 years. The stock has a yield of 3.3%. Moreover, earlier this year, the company increased its annual share repurchase guidance range to $10 billion to $20 billion from $5 billion to $15 billion.

“We highlight that from 2024-2026, we expect a sharp improvement in ROCE [return on capital employed], production per share growth and FCF per share, all enabling a top decile return of capital profile in the S&P 100,” said the analyst.

Mehta ranks 262nd among more than 8,500 analysts tracked by TipRanks. His ratings have been profitable 66% of the time, with each rating delivering an average return of 12.3%. (See Chevron Stock Chart on TipRanks)

ConocoPhillips

Mehta is also bullish on another dividend-paying energy stock – ConocoPhillipsCOP). While the company’s second-quarter earnings and cash flow fell slightly short of the analyst’s expectations, he sees the possibility of a more constructive setup in the second half of 2023 as pricing realizations normalize and volumes increase.

Mehta added that though ConocoPhillips is in a higher spending mode to support longer-term and high-return projects, he continues to expect attractive capital returns in 2024 and beyond. The analyst projects a capital return yield of 7% in 2024, with room for further upside.

The analyst’s 2024 capital return projection is based on $5 billion of share buybacks and the expectation of a higher dividend payout of $4.3 billion compared to the prior estimate of $3.7 billion. ConocoPhillips has a capital return target of $11 billion for 2023, and it has returned about $5.8 billion to shareholders in the first half of the year through share repurchases and fixed and variable dividends.

Mehta reiterated a buy rating on COP and raised the price target to $128 from $120, saying, “We see COP as the most advantaged on return on capital employed, with a 2024-2026 avg ROCE of 21% vs the US Major peer avg of 16%.” (See ConocoPhillips’ Financial Statements on TipRanks)

Pioneer Natural Resources

Next on this week’s list is Pioneer NaturalPXD), an independent oil and gas exploration and production company. Recently, PXD modified its capital return framework to pay at least 75% of free cash flow to shareholders through base and variable dividends and opportunistic share repurchases. The remaining 25% will be used to strengthen the balance sheet.

Mizuho analyst Nitin Kumar noted that in the second quarter — marking the inaugural quarter for the updated capital return framework — post-base dividend free cash flow was evenly divided between buybacks (about $125 million) and variable dividends ($138 million). He also mentioned that Pioneer recently announced its third-quarter dividend payment and pointed out that its forward dividend yield is over 3.0%, based on $1.25 per share of base dividend and $0.59 per share of variable dividend.

Kumar, who has a buy rating on PXD with a price target of $265, highlighted that PXD’s second-quarter volumes and above-guidance production validated his prediction of an improvement in well productivity, as indicated by his firm’s proprietary database.

“Critically, this well productivity is allowing management to increase oil/total production guidance by ~1%/3% while reducing capex by ~3%, setting the stage for strong capital efficiencies into 2024 without factoring in the impact of cost deflation anticipated by the industry,” said Kumar.

Kumar holds the 26th position among more than 8,500 analysts on TipRanks. Moreover, 79% of his ratings have been profitable, with each generating a return of 23.2%. (See PXD Insider Trading Activity on TipRanks)

Seagate Technology

SeagateSTX), one of the prominent makers of computer hard drives, is under pressure because of the uneven pace of recovery in China and cautious enterprise spending due to macro headwinds.

Nevertheless, Baird analyst Tristan Gerra, who ranks 398th among more than 8,500 analysts tracked on TipRanks, remains bullish on this dividend-paying tech stock. Seagate generated free cash flow of $626 million in fiscal 2023 and paid $582 million in dividends while directing $408 million toward repurchasing shares. STX offers a dividend yield of 4.2%.

The analyst noted that the June quarter’s shipments fell significantly due to the ongoing inventory correction among most of the company’s customers, with this trend expected to last a couple of additional quarters. However, the analyst contended that hard disk drive (HDD) secular demand trends remain intact.

Gerra thinks that the worst is behind the company. He expects STX’s gross margin to improve due to the company’s aggressive cost reduction and ramp-up of higher-density architecture.

The analyst reiterated a buy rating on STX stock with a price target of $70. He said, “Net, business remains structurally sound, and we see no reason for Seagate not to return and eventually exceed a historical $5-$5.50 EPS run rate.”

Gerra has a success rate of 56% and each of his ratings has returned 10.3% on average. (See Seagate Hedge Fund Trading Activity on TipRanks)

McDonald’s

Last on this week’s list, there’s fast-food chain McDonald’sMCD), which impressed investors with strong second-quarter results. The company is a dividend aristocrat and has raised its dividend payment for 46 consecutive years. MCD has a dividend yield of 2.1%.

Following the impressive Q2 2023 print, RBC Capital analyst Christopher Carril reiterated a buy rating on MCD and increased the price target to $340 from $325.

The analyst highlighted that the company delivered another solid quarter against elevated estimates, driven by still-elevated average check and positive guest counts, which were supported by its robust marketing efforts.

“McDonald’s stable and improved business model, global scale and near best-in class dividend yield all help to balance relatively lower unit growth, in our view justifying a multiple above that of all franchised peers,” said Carril.

Carril ranks No. 661 out of more than 8,500 analysts tracked on TipRanks. Also, 64% percent of his ratings have been profitable, with an average return of 12.3%. (See McDonald’s Blogger Opinions & Sentiment on TipRanks)

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