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3 FTSE Shares Hitting New Highs: Ashtead Group plc, Prudential plc and London Stock Exchange Group Plc

The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) as been sliding, having recorded six weeks of losses in a row. But it pulled up from that last week to regain 166 points and end on 6,606, and today the index of top UK shares is up a further 33 points to 6,639. That’s still 237 points short of its 52-week high of 6,876, but it is at least a comfortable 766 points away from its low point just over a year ago.

We’ve had some new records set by a number of individual shares too. Here are three that could be ending the year on a high:

Ashtead Group

Shares in Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT) ended on a closing high of 773.5p on Friday, having been even higher at 780p during the day — today the price is back from that a little, to 764.5p. That’s a gain of 75% over the year, and it was boosted by first-half results earlier this month that revealed a 49% rise in underlying pre-tax profit with earnings per share (EPS) up 50%.

Forecasts for the year to April 2014 suggest a 35% rise in EPS, which does put the shares on a higher-than-average forward P/E of 18 — but a predicted further EPS rise for the following year would drop that to 15.

Prudential

It’s been a good year for the insurance sector, with Prudential (LSE: PRU) having enjoyed a 50% rise over the past 12 months.

That included a 52-week high today of 1,323p, where the shares stand as I write, on top of a 3.4% rise last week. Forecasts for Prudential suggest a year-end P/E of just over 16, but with EPS predicted to rise by nearly 20% in 2014 that should fall to under 14. Dividends look like yielding around the 2.5% mark.

London Stock Exchange

With markets returning to a bullish mood, London Stock Exchange Group (LSE: LSE) has itself been doing well, hitting a new high today of 1,706p before losing a few pennies to 1,702p. That’s a 12-month gain of more than 50%.

The LSE reported an adjusted operating profit rise of 6% in its November first-half results announcement, with adjusted EPS slightly down at 48.2p (against 51.8p a year previously), and the interim dividend was lifted 4% to 10.1p.

There’s a fall of 5% in EPS predicted for the year to March 2014, but forecasts for the year after suggest a 10% rise to follow.

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