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3 FTSE Shares Hitting New Highs: Johnson Matthey PLC, GKN plc And Thomas Cook Group plc

In recent weeks the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) has been slowly re-approaching the 13-year record of 6,876 points it set on 22 May, though it is slipping back a little this week — by early afternoon it’s two points down on the day at 6,618 and 30 points down on the week. Still, the index of top UK shares is only 258 points down from its record, and a strong week or two is all it would take to break it.

But which individual shares are hitting the heights? Here are three from the various indices setting new records:

Johnson Matthey

Speciality chemicals producer Johnson Matthey (LSE: JMAT) has had a great year, with its shares ending Monday on a 52-week closing high of 2,887p, briefly touching a record price of 2,925p during the day. Today the price is back a little at 2,881p, providing shareholders with a 12-month gain of 30%.

A first-quarter update on 25 July showed sales (excluding precious metals) up 13% to £745m and underlying pre-tax profit up 8% to £106m — and that lends support to current forecasts for an 8% rise in earnings per share for the full year.

GKN

Engineering group GKN (LSE: GKN) is also pleasing its shareholders, with a 60% rise in its share price over the past 12 months to a new closing high yesterday of 354p — the shares have actually been above that today, but are down a fraction at 353.8p as I write. Investors are also enjoying some dividend income, with GKN having lifted its interim payout by 8% last week, though the yield is only around 2.2%.

The full year is expected to show flat earnings, but the shares are on a forward P/E of 13, dropping to 11 for 2014, which looks modest.

Thomas Cook Group

Ten-baggers don’t come along that often, but shareholders in Thomas Cook Group (LSE: TCG) have enjoyed that kind of ride in just a year! In fact, the shares are up more than 1,000%, closing Monday on a new 12-month high of 169.9p. The high street travel agent’s recovery has been remarkable, with the firm’s third-quarter update confirming it has completed a £1.6bn refinancing deal, and that net debt had more than halved as of 30 June, from £1,099m a year previously to £452m.

The company is forecast to swing back into profit this year, with forecasts for September 2014 taking the P/E down to a respectable 15.

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> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article.