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3 FTSE Shares Hitting New Highs: ARM Holdings plc, AstraZeneca plc and WPP PLC

The Christmas week is looking like it could deliver two weeks of gains in a row for the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE), after last week brought to an end a run of six straight weeks of losses. By early afternoon today, the index of top UK shares is up 16 points to 6,694 and up 87 on the week so far.

The FTSE is still some way from its 2013 record of 6,876 points, but there are plenty of individual shares setting new records of their own. Here are three that are flying:

ARM Holdings

ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM) (NASDAQ: ARMH.US) shares have had something of an erratic year, but they ended yesterday on a 52-week closing high of 1,110p after edging a little higher earlier in the day to 1,112p. Today the price is back a little from that at 1,095p, but it’s still up more than 40% over the year and it has nearly doubled over two years.

Forecasts for the year ending 31 December do put the shares on a lofty P/E valuation of 54, which is more than a little above the FTSE’s long-term average of about 14. But ARM’s shares have been highly-valued for years, and the growing demand for mobile computing chips has so far kept up with them.

AstraZeneca

The refocusing at AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) under the guidance of new boss Pascal Soriot appears to have met with shareholder approval, with the shares putting on a late 2013 spurt to take them up 25% over the past 12 months. The price finished within a penny of last Friday’s closing high yesterday, ending at 3,598p, though they had been even higher earlier last week at 3,669.5p.

As I write, the shares are changing hands at 3,612p. But even with the recent price rise, we’re still looking at a year-end P/E of under 12 as analysts forecast a 22% drop in earnings per share. But the firm’s recent acquisition of the diabetes assets it held jointly with Bristol-Myers Squibb is very much in line with a focus on core strengths, and a return to profit growth is hopefully not far away.

WPP

WPP (LSE: WPP) has also had a terrific 2013, with a share price rise of more than 50%. And today the shares hit a new high of 1,385p before settling back a little to 1,374p as I write.

WPP has been on the acquisition trail of late, with its latest target being the Media Arts System and Services Company of the Philippines. Prior to that announcement last Friday, the media giant had revealed plans to take majority stakes in ClickMedia in Vietnam and in India’s RC&M, among other acquisitions.

We have a couple more years of solid earnings growth forecast, with expected dividend yields of around 2.5-3%.

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