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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: 3M, Walmart, Kimberly-Clark, Automatic Data Processing and T. Rowe Price Group

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL - March 5, 2018 - Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include 3M CompanyMMM , Walmart Inc.WMT , Kimberly-Clark CorporationKMB , Automatic Data Processing, Inc.ADP and T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.TROW .

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Friday's Analyst Blog:

Top 5 Dividend Aristocrats to Buy in March

President Trump called for tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminum imports that could hurt corporations as well as consumers. Such tariffs also stirred fears of a trade dispute between the United States and China. This in turn propelled Wall Street's fear gauge index above its historic average and dragged the broader markets down.

Inflation scare leading to rate hikes had already triggered a sudden panic among investors. After all, rate hikes will raise borrowing costs, eventually denting corporate profits and affecting the U.S. economy. Amid such uncertainty, investing in dividend aristocrats seems prudent, as these provide higher total returns with lower volatility and are undoubtedly the holy grail of investing.

Tariffs to Affect U.S. Corporations

Wall Street began March on a sour note after Trump said that the United States will impose steel and aluminum tariffs. Trump said that the U.S. will impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum. Such a protectionist trade policy may be one of the widest-reaching trade action he has taken to date, but it has triggered a lot of concern among corporations and consumers.

Tariffs will increase the cost of companies that rely heavily on aluminum and steel, like auto and plane makers. Needless to say, shares of Ford, General Motors and Boeing dipped around 3%. In fact, Corporate America has cautioned Trump that tariffs could backfire. After all, imports make up for about a third of the steel American business houses use every year.

Higher prices on steel and aluminum, furthermore, will compel companies that rely on such products to pass on some of the costs to consumers. Increased consumer prices may in the long run hamper sales growth and affect the company, leading to job losses.

Wall Street is Worried About a Trade War

Trump's contentious tariff announcement has raised apprehensions about retaliation from China and other major U.S. trading partners. China cautioned America to abide by multilateral trade rules and not to harm the delicate global economy. We shouldn't forget that China is the world's dominant steel producer and Trump's tariff moves could easily start a trade war between them.

Li Xinchuang, vice secretary general of the China Iron and Steel Association, added that imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports is an "extremely stupid move." This will make U.S. industries fall behind globally during a period when "China is in its prime."

Tariffs also raise threats of a trade war with America's closest allies, Canada. And why not? Canada is the top exporter of both steel and aluminum to the United States. Canada is solely responsible for manufacturing 17% of all the U.S. steel imports and 43% of all aluminum imports. Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, in the meantime, has announced that "should restrictions be imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum products, Canada will take responsive measures to defend its trade interests and workers."

Rate Hike Fears Loom

Concerns about trade came at a time when the broader market is already on a roller-coaster ride. The broader S&P 500 and the Dow tanked nearly 4% in February. Both the bourses had their worst month in two years. Meanwhile, the Cboe Volatility Index (VIX) soared 15% on Mar 1, indicating that turbulence has picked up as well.

Investors remain worried that rise in inflation in the near term will prompt the Fed to hike short-term interest rates at a faster pace than expected. This in turn will increase borrowing costs for business and consumers, which will eventually lead to a slowdown in the economy. It's important to also note that an easy monetary policy helped the equity market notch a nearly nine-year bull run.

Inflation to Rise

Recent hike in pay levels raised worries about higher commodity prices. Wage growth hit the fastest pace in January in more than eight-and-a-half years, according to the Labor Department. Average hourly wages increased 9 cents, or 0.3%, to $26.74. This helped the average year-on-year hourly earnings to rise to 2.9%, the highest since June 2009. Americans are now getting fatter paychecks mostly due to a tighter labor market, tax cut policy and a rise in the minimum wage threshold in several states.

Consumers have also been ramping up their spending levels of late as they are largely benefiting from a rise in income. Traders predict that such upbeat consumer outlays will fuel inflation (read more: US Consumers Most Confident in 17 Years: Top 4 Picks ).

Minutes of the Jan 30-31 Federal Open Market Committee meeting has already shown that several officials expect inflation to move up this year and touch the Fed's 2% target. Only a small number of them forecast inflation to fall short of 2%.

Why Dividend Aristocrats? 5 Solid Choices

Given the aforesaid concerns, investing in dividend aristocrats seems judicious. Such companies have tremendous financial strength and are immune to market vagaries. They reflect solid financial structure and healthy underlying fundamentals. They have also raked in excellent risk-adjusted returns over the last decade.

We have, thus, selected five such dividend aristocrats to boost your returns. Such stocks also possess a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). The favorable Zacks Rank should help these stocks to gain further this year. You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here .

3M Company operates as a diversified technology company worldwide. The company has paid dividend for over 100 years, while it has raised its dividend for 59 straight years. Bard has a dividend yield of 2.4% while its five-year average dividend yield is also pegged at 2.4%. The stock's expected earnings growth for 2018 is 15.5%.

Walmart Inc. operates retail stores in various formats worldwide. Wal-Mart's first dividend was paid in 1974. It has increased its dividend each year since and is currently paying out 2.3%. Its five-year average dividend yield is pegged at 2.6%. The stock's expected earnings growth for 2018 is 11.8%.

Kimberly-Clark Corporation manufactures and markets personal care, consumer tissue, and professional products worldwide. The company raised its dividend for 45 consecutive years. Kimberly-Clark has a dividend yield of 3.5% while its five-year average dividend yield is pegged at 3.1%. The expected earnings growth for the stock this year is 12%.

Automatic Data Processing, Inc. provides business process outsourcing services worldwide. ADP has raised its dividend each year for 42 years in a row. The company has a dividend yield of 2.2% while its five-year average dividend yield is pegged at 2.4%. The stock has an expected earnings growth rate of 10.8% for 2018.

T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. is a publicly owned investment manager. The company has increased its dividend for 31 years at a stretch. It has a dividend yield of 2.1% while its five-year average dividend yield is pegged at 2.5%. T. Rowe Price's expected earnings growth for 2018 is 32.2%.

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About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit https://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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Kimberly-Clark Corporation (KMB): Free Stock Analysis Report

3M Company (MMM): Free Stock Analysis Report

T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. (TROW): Free Stock Analysis Report

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT): Free Stock Analysis Report

Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP): Free Stock Analysis Report

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Zacks Investment Research

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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