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3 FTSE 100 Shares Hitting New Highs: AstraZeneca plc, Associated British Foods plc and Admiral Group plc

The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) is hanging tantalizingly short of beating last May’s peak of 6,876 points to set a new 14-year record. It’s up just three points so far this week to 6,832, with some good Christmas trading updates offering support, but there seems to be a reluctance from the markets to step into new territory. It can’t be long now, though, surely.

While we wait, which individual shares are helping drive up the FTSE indices? Here are three breaking records of their own:

AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) (NYSE: AZN.US) has started 2014 in fine fashion. It’s shares have climbed 10% since the end of December to end yesterday on a 52-week closing high of 3,947p, having peaked earlier in the day at 3,981p. Today the price is down a bit at 3,923p.

Recent impetus came from the pharmaceuticals giant’s update on 14 January, which told us that its refocus plan is bearing fruit ahead of expectations and that we should be seeing a return to growth more quickly than analysts’ forecasts.

Thanks to the recent rise, AstraZeneca shares are now up around 28% over the past 12 months. Full-year results are due on 6 February.

Associated British Foods

We saw a new 12-month high from Associated British Foods (LSE: ABF) this morning, at 2,882p, taking the price up more than 70% over the past year.

After an impressive set of results for the year to September 2013, Associated brought us a first-quarter update on 16 January telling us of “excellent Christmas trading at Primark” with a 12% rise in sales, and an “encouraging performance from Grocery and Ingredients“. The firm’s Sugar division, however, disappointed with a 27% fall.

The recent rise has left the shares on a forward P/E based on September 2014 forecasts of more than 27, falling only to 25 for 2015, with dividend yields of under 1.5%. If you think that’s a bit too pricey, you’re not alone.

Admiral

Admiral Group (LSE: ADM) has been a leading light in the insurance sector recovery, gaining 20% over the past 12 months to reach a 52-week high of 1,470p today.

Admiral has grown its earnings per share right through the recession, although that growth is forecast to come to halt for the next two years. The shares are on a P/E of 14, but the big figure of note is Admiral’s forecast dividend yields of close to 7% including the firm’s traditional special dividend! But the total payout is likely to be barely covered by earnings.

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