New Stocks Added to Merrill Lynch Alpha Surprise List

24/7 Wall St.

The Merrill Lynch team updated their Alpha Surprise stocks list for July, and they added some top stocks on Wall Street. We screened the list for the most liquid names that had the biggest upside potential and were rated Buy at the firm.

In Wall Street speak, the term alpha is used to describe the excess return above what is an accepted benchmark. In other words, let's say you are a portfolio manager and your benchmark is the S&P 500. The S&P was up just under 7% for the first half of 2014. If your portfolio was up 9% the difference of 2% is the alpha you generated for your fund.

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Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG) is one of the top natural gas names to buy at Merrill Lynch. Even in a challenging gas environment, the analysts believe Cabot has the potential to deliver strong returns and an impressive growth trajectory. Should U.S. natural gas prices prove to be even better than the strip pricing over the next several years, the company stands to benefit as one of the most levered names in the sector. Investors are paid a miniscule 0.2% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is $47, and the consensus target is $44.81. Cabot closed Thursday at $34.93. Hitting the Merrill Lynch target price would be a 30% gain.

Express Scripts Holding Co. Inc. (ESRX) is a portfolio manager's favorite on Wall Street as it is one of the top portfolio names in Leon Cooperman's Omega Fund and is the third largest holding in David Rolfe's Wedgewood Partner Hedge Fund with 4,959,737 shares of the company's stock. The company offers health care management and administration services on behalf of its clients. It operates in two segments, Pharmacy Benefit Management and Other Business Operations. The Merrill Lynch price target is $82, and the consensus is at $80.38. Express Scripts closed Thursday $69.43.

KLA-Tencor Corp. (KLAC) is a top technology name added to the list for July. The company is engaged in the design, manufacture and marketing of process control and yield management solutions for the semiconductor and related nanoelectronics industries. With a portfolio of industry standard products and a team of world-class engineers and scientists, the company has created superior solutions for its customers for more than 35 years. Investors are paid a 2.6% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is $75 and the consensus is $70.26. KLAC closed Thursday at $74.62.

Macerich Co. (MAC) is one of the nation's leading owners, operators and developers of regional malls. The company is a fully integrated self-managed and self-administered real estate investment trust that focuses on the acquisition, leasing, management, development and redevelopment of regional malls throughout the United States. Macerich currently owns 55 million square feet of real estate, consisting primarily of interest in 52 regional shopping centers. Investors are paid a 3.7% distribution. Merrill Lynch has a $70 price target, while the consensus target is $67.79. The stock closed Thursday at $66.25.

Pfizer Inc. (PFE) trades at a low 14 times earnings and is one of the top pharmaceutical names at Merrill Lynch. The company updated investors and physicians at a recent Wall Street conference on the Phase 2 trial results on palbociclib for advanced breast cancer. The doctors on the breast cancer panel at the conference were much more optimistic than previously about the possibility of palbociclib being filed and approved on Phase 2 data in first line advanced breast cancer. Investors are paid a 3.5% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $36, and the consensus price target for the stock is posted at $34.52. Pfizer closed Thursday at $30.53.

Range Resources Corp. (RRC) is added to the list for July, and it is another top name to buy for continued possible gains in natural gas. The company holds interests in developed and undeveloped natural gas and oil leases. Range Resources owns 4,637 net producing wells and approximately 1.6 million gross acres under lease in the Appalachian region. It also owns 1,536 net producing wells and approximately 811,000 gross acres under lease in Southwestern region. Investors are paid a small 0.20% dividend. The Merrill Lynch target price is $100, and the consensus figure is at $100.39. Range ended last week at $85.79.

Some of the Merrill Lynch Alpha Surprise stocks will be reporting calendar second-quarter earnings soon, and if anything can be a catalyst to move a stock price it is earnings. 24/7 readers who are interested in these top names may want to check when their earnings reporting dates are and place their trades accordingly.

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