5 Shares Soaring To 52-Week Highs: Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, Associated British Foods plc, BAE Systems plc, Legal & General Group Plc and London Stock Exchange Group Plc

The FTSE 100 has had an unremarkable 2014 so far with a 12-month gain of only 3%, but it hides a few high-flyers that would have rewarded you well this year…

Royal Bank of Scotland

Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS) reported a third successive quarterly profit in October, and beat rival Lloyds Banking Group in the recent European banking stress tests. That’s helped push RBS shares to a new 52-week high of 399.4p on 3 December, for a 12-month gain of 19%.

But investors do need to bear in mind chief executive Ross McEwan’s warning that RBS still has “…a long list of conduct and litigation issues to deal with and much, much more to do to restore our customers’ trust in us.

Associated British Foods

Associated British Foods (LSE: ABF) might sound like an unlikely winner, but it also owns the Primark bargain fashion chain, and that’s helped push its shares up 40% to a 52-week high of 3,215p, also on 3 December.

Adjusted earnings per share for the year to September were up 6% and net debt was reduced to £446m. The shares are, however, now on a forward P/E of 30, which is more than twice the FTSE 100 average.

BAE Systems

Its strong relationship with Saudi Arabia has helped BAE Systems (LSE: BA) counter reduced domestic defence spending, and that has given the shares a boost to a 52-week high of 483.4p.

That’s a 12-month gain of 15%, but the shares are still on a forward P/E of only 12 for 2015 with a dividend of 4.3% forecast — there could be plenty more to come next year.

Legal & General

The life insurance business has been storming back as the recession fades, with Legal & General (LSE: LGEN) being amongst the sector’s top performers, and it’s the fourth to hit a 52-week high on the same day, of 248.7p — the shares are up 19% over 12 months.

At Q3 time, chief executive Nigel Wilson said “We are growing our revenues, operating profit, customers and net cash“, which lends support to a forecast dividend yield of 5% for 2015.

London Stock Exchange

To finish our five, we have the London Stock Exchange (LSE: LSE) itself, with a year of strong market activity helping push its shares up 53% to a 52-week record of 2,266p on 28 November — they’re only a little back from that at 2,231p as I write.

At first-half time the LSE reported an 18% rise in revenue, with adjusted basic EPS up 22%. The company lifted its interim dividend by 4.3%, though the full-year yield is likely to be only around 1.5%.

I reckon these 5 shares could make the core of a decent retirement portfolio, but what other ideas might you consider?

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Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.