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Stocks  | August 6, 2020

Investment firm Raymond James has released its July performance recap, summing up the fourth month of the economic recovery. The firm notes that the early weeks of this recovery cycle showed a V-shaped turnaround for the economy, which has since slowed, taking a “treading water” patter. Raymond James sees defensive stock plays in a strong position, as they have somewhat outperformed since the second week of June.

Raymond James strategist Tavis McCourt sees the slowing pattern as predictable, and linked to the pace of Congressional action on recovery stimulus packages. McCourt writes, “With D.C. negotiating another package, it is likely that high frequency economic data will decelerate in early August before another round of stimulus is signed, but the market clearly believes the likelihood is that more direct support at similar scale is likely through the election.”

This makes defensive stocks part of a consistent strategy, to keep returns coming in for reinvestment. With this in mind, we used TipRanks database to pull up the stats on three stocks that Raymond James analysts have tapped as buying propositions. These are stocks with a specific set of clear attributes, that frequently indicate a strong defensive profile: a high dividend yield -- over 8%; and a considerable upside potential.

Phillips 66 Partners (PSXP)

The first stock on our list is the midstream affiliate of Phillips 66. PSXP spun off the oil giant to operate the natural gas and crude oil pipelines, along with terminals and processing plants, that move product from the producer to the distributors. The company’s network of transport assets extends from the central US to the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana.

PSXP has shown a combination of poor share performance in the economic downturn plus relatively strong quarterly earnings. The stock is still down 53% from February’s pre-crash levels, while EPS beat expectations in both Q1 and Q2. The second quarter results also showed a sharp upward turn sequentially from Q1, coming in at $1.05.

The company has used its earnings to keep up the dividend payment. The quarterly payment has been stable at 87.5 cents per common share for the past three quarters, and at $3.50 annualized give a yield of 12.7%. This is more than 6x higher than the average dividend yield found on the S&P 500. PSXP has a 7-year history of dividend reliability.

The dividend is only part of the positive picture here. Raymond James analyst Justin Jenkins writes, “Despite the near-term volatility in PSXP from pandemic/demand and regulatory risks, we remain positive on the long term outlook. Longer-term, PSXP benefits from a solid backstop from Phillips 66 (PSX) relative to peers. The interplay between the Phillips franchise provides growth optionality, especially as demand normalizes…”

Jenkins gives this stock a Buy rating, and his $36 price target suggests an upside of 30% for the coming year.

Overall, Phillips 66 Partners has a Moderate Buy from Wall Street’s analysts, based on 6 Buy and 3 Hold ratings given in recent weeks. The stock is currently trading for $28.15, and the average price target, at $37.11, is slightly more bullish than Jenkins’, suggesting a 32% one-year upside to the shares.

Black Stone Minerals LP (BSM)

Next on our list, Black Stone Minerals, is another player in the hydrocarbon industry. Black Stone is an exploration and development company, with land use rights on 20 million acres in 40 states, with two main focuses: the South, with holdings from Texas across to Alabama, and the Northern Plains, where it operates in Montana and the Dakotas. Appalachian gas plays in West Virginia and Pennsylvania round out Black Stone’s operations.

Depressed demand and economic lockdown policies kept impacted profits, and Black Stone’s earnings dropped sharply in Q2. The company has maintained its dividend payment, however, adjusting the payout to keep it in-line with debt reduction efforts and improved free cash flow during 1H20.

The success of those efforts can be seen by the 88% increase in the dividend from Q1 to Q2, despite the fall in earnings. The current dividend is 15 cents per share, or 60 cents annualized, and gives a strong dividend yield of 8.2%.

Covering the stock for Raymond James, analyst John Freeman gives BSM shares a Buy rating. His $9 price target suggests it has room for a 22.5% upside potential in the next 12 months.

Supporting his stance, Freeman points out the company’s improving balance sheet. He writes, “As a result of their announced asset sale, BSM's borrowing base was reduced to $430M (down 7%) in 2Q. The company had $153M drawn at the end of July putting their utilization at a little over 35% currently. BSM ended the quarter with leverage at a low 1x.”

"We applaud the reduced leverage profile and increasing distribution (nearly doubled q/q), while continuing to like BSM's diverse asset base and steps towards Shelby Trough development," the analyst added.

Overall, the analyst consensus rating on Black Stone, a Moderate Buy, is based on an even split – 2 Buys and 2 Holds. The stock’s $9.25 average price target suggests an upside of 26% from the $7.38 trading price.

Oneok, Inc. (OKE)

Last on the list today is Oneok (pronounced One-Oak), another midstream company in the natural gas industry. Oneok operates in the Permian Basin, the Mid-Continent region, and the Rocky Mountain states, with a network of assets including pipelines, processing plants, and storage facilities.

Oneok has underperformed in 1H20, despite a strong Q1 performance. The company’s earnings fell from 83 cents per share in first quarter to 32 cents in the second. Shares fell sharply in early March, and have yet to recover value; OKE is down 54% from pre-crash levels, and is simply not gaining traction.

At the same time, the company does have those valuable midstream assets, and has held its dividend stable at 93.5 cents per common share, giving a yield of 12.8%. Those strengths make the low share price an attractive point of entry, a factor noted by Raymond James.

Writing for the firm, James Weston says, “At ONEOK (OKE), we still see a solid management team, generalist-friendly structure, and intense Bakken operating leverage in a more constructive environment (which may begin to show itself somewhat in 3Q financials). True, Bakken regulatory headwinds would drive tack-on impacts through the value-chain and could push leverage sustainably above ~5x in our model. However, the painful ~60% YTD sell-off took OKE from a peer premium to a slight peer discount, largely pricing in this risk. Further, OKE remains an attractive total return story as our base case avoids a cut to its ~13% dividend yield."

To this end, Weston puts a $33 price target behind his Buy rating, implying a about 10% upside to the stock from current levels.

Overall, with 2 Buy ratings, 13 Holds, and 1 Sell, the analyst consensus rating on OKE is a Hold. Meanwhile, the stock is selling for $29.73, and the average price target, $34.07, suggests it has ~15% upside for the year ahead.

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