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3 FTSE Shares Hitting New Highs: Ashtead Group plc, AstraZeneca plc And easyJet plc

So, did you think yesterday’s 82-point rise for the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) to 6,522 points signaled the start of a recovery? Well, think again — the index of top UK shares has already dipped back below 6,500, dropping 27 points to 6,495 by mid-morning. The punters appear to be nervous ahead of Wednesday’s US Federal Reserve decision on its economic policies, with many fearing recent upbeat US data will lead to an earlier-than-expected cutback in bond buying.

But even if the FTSE is a long way from breaking records, at least some individual shares are managing it. Here are three that are reaching new heights:

Ashtead

Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT) shares hit their highest closing price for 52 weeks yesterday, reaching 754.5p for a 12-month gain of more than 80% — and as I write, the price is unmoved from that level.

The equipment-rental firm reported impressive first-half results last week, with revenue up 23% and underlying pre-tax profit up a very nice 49%. Underlying earnings per share gained 50%, enabling the company to hike its interim dividend by a similar 50% to 2.25p per share.

The climb in Ashtead’s share price during 2013 has come at a cost, and there’s now a forward P/E based on current forecasts of nearly 18. That’s a tad higher then the FTSE average of around 14, and dividend yields are only around 1.4%. But there’s more EPS growth expected, with 2015 forecasts bringing the P/E down to 15.

AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) (NYSE: AZN.US) also hit a new 52-week closing high yesterday, ending the day at 3,547.5p.

Today the price has fallen back a little to 3,532p, but that still leaves it more than 20% up over the past 12 months — and that’s not bad going for a FTSE 100 giant, especially when the index itself has managed less than half that.

AstraZeneca’s Q3 update was met with a favourable response from the market, and since then the firm has enjoyed good results from a couple of new drugs — an FDA Advisory Committee approval for one, and a successful Phase III trial for another.

easyJet

easyJet (LSE: EZJ) shares just won’t stop climbing — they have now more than doubled to reach a record close of 1,506p yesterday, and today the price is a quarter of a penny higher.

And even after such a dramatic rise, the shares are still only on a forward P/E of 14 — although some would say that’s too high, given the risky nature of airlines which are so critically dependent on fuel costs.

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