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Merrill Lynch Positive on Five Tech Stocks Even After Big Market Rally

Lee Jackson

With the market making new highs seemingly every day, investors are in the unfamiliar spot of trying to gauge how much more room is left. With technology absolutely on fire, and prices getting stretched, new ideas are at a premium. Armed with new data from their Global Technology conference, the server and enterprise software analysts from Merrill Lynch came away feeling very good about five stocks they feel still have room to run. With much of Wall Street expecting capital expenditures to increase in the second half of the year, these five top stocks to buy make good sense for investors in a pricey market.

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Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM) has been the momentum stock traders dream over the past few years. The analysts at Merrill Lynch say that while the stock trades in line with its fast organic software-as-a-service (SaaS) peer group, they believe it should trade at a premium to the group owing to its dominant positioning in the powerful cloud, mobile and social computing waves, larger revenue run-rate compared to the group average, stronger cash generation and its TAM, which is substantially larger than the peer group average. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $73, and the consensus target is $67.98. Salesforce closed Thursday at $51.37 a share.

8X8 Inc. (EGHT) is a provider of secure and reliable cloud-based unified communications and virtual contact center solutions to more than 36,000 small, midsize and distributed enterprise organizations operating in more than 40 countries across six continents. This solid provider of unified communications and collaboration services has seen a mixed track record, as current year estimates have seen no revisions over the past few weeks, and the consensus for earnings has not been in a trend either. This may provide investors a good entry point on the name as it got hit hard last week on no apparent negative news. The Merrill Lynch price target for this Buy-rated stock is $12, and the consensus is at $11.72. 8X8 closed Thursday at $6.91.

Fleetmatics Group PLC (FLTX) is a lesser known name to get the nod at Merrill Lynch. The company is a leading global provider of mobile workforce solutions for service-based businesses of all sizes delivered as SaaS. Its solutions enable businesses to meet the challenges associated with managing local fleets, and improve the productivity of their mobile workforces, by extracting actionable business intelligence from real-time and historical vehicle and driver behavioral data. With an improving economy and transportation sector, its products could have a big second half of the year and 2015. Merrill Lynch has a $45 price objective, and the consensus is set at $41.13. The stock closed trading Thursday at $29.57.

Intuit Inc. (INTU) is a company that loves income tax time as its Turbo Tax product is one of the most widely used, and sales are expected to be very solid once again this year. The company is also well-known for the QuickBooks line of accounting software, which is used by firms big and small. Investors are paid a 1% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for this top software name is $93. The consensus target is $80.44. The stock closed trading Thursday at $79.36.

VMware Inc. (VMW) has been on fire and is a leader in cloud storage software. Its core business is in server virtualization, which allows virtual computers to run different operating systems and applications on one physical computer. That improves business efficiency and the utilization of data, and it saves on costs. Quickly, it has become a fast-growing business, one that is derived from licensing and service revenue. While competition is keen, the company is still a market leader. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $120. The consensus target is $110.33. VMware closed Thursday at $96.70. Investors can also indirectly own VMware by buying the stock of storage giant EMC. The company owns more than 43 million shares of the stock. EMC closed Thursday at $26.51.

Clearly riding this wave of market enthusiasm gives all investors pause at this stage of the game. The Merrill Lynch top names are still reasonably priced compared to some of their counterparts, and they offer some good upside. Investors may want to scale capital in and buy partial positions now, and see if a summer pullback doesn't give a better point to add the balance of the stock.

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