The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) hit a seven-week high of 6,658 today, and stands at 6,645 at the time of writing — 21 points up on the day. Positive noises from China have provided a boost today, as the UK’s top-drawer index slowly chips away at the 13-year record of 6,876 points it set on 22 May.
But more and more individual companies have been reaching new highs in recent weeks. Lets take a quick look at three of them, two FTSE 100 shares and one from the FTSE 250:
BT Group (LSE: BT-A) (NYSE: BT.US) shares climbed to a new 52-week high today, of 348.5p, taking the price up around 55% over the past 12 months. For the year ending 31 March 2013, BT saw revenues fall 5%, but adjusted pre-tax profit rose by 11% to £2.7bn with adjusted earnings per share up 12% to 26.6p — and the annual dividend was lifted by 14% to 9.5p.
But is BT still a bargain? Well, the shares are on a modest forward P/E of about 14 for 2014 forecasts, and the dividend is a pretty average 3.2%. But BT has quite high debt, which stood at £7.8bn at year-end, and there’s always the millstone that is its massive pension fund.
Shares in J Sainsbury (LSE: SBRY) have gained more than 25% over the past year, reaching a 52-week high of 401p today — over the same period, Tesco shares have gained only 15%, on a more volatile ride. Year after year of earnings and dividend rises have been a great help for Sainsbury, and the City is currently forecasting EPS rises of 6% a year for the next two years, on top of a 9% rise reported for the year to March 2013.
This year gave us a 4.6% dividend yield from Sainsbury, and though forecasts suggest a 3.6% rise in the payout for next year to 17.3p per share, the risen share price does drop the yield to 4.4% — but that’s still pretty good, and there’s a forward P/E of only around 12.5.
Our third record-breaker for today is wholesale broker ICAP (LSE: IAP), whose shares have gained more than 30% over the past 12 months and hit a 52-week high of 409.8p today. ICAP reported a fall in earnings per share for the year to 31 March, but held its dividend at 22p per share for a whopping yield of 7.6%.
There’s a small rise in EPS forecast for 2014, and most analysts are expecting the dividend to remain unchanged again. With the share price up since the last year-end, that would drop the yield to 5.6%, but that would still be a handsome payment — and it would be about 1.6 times covered by forecast earnings.
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> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares in Tesco.