Can Anglo American plc (+140%), Admiral Group plc (+42%) And Rolls-Royce Holding PLC (+42%) Keep Soaring?

Don’t you think it’s amazing the way the investment world can see a company as a pariah one moment and not touch the shares with a bargepole, yet hardly any time later it’s become a darling that everyone’s piling into?

That’s what I see when I look at the share price ride for Anglo American (LSE: AAL). From a peak back in February 2011 until 20 January 2016, the shares shed a massive 93% of their value, which was one of the worst performances of the mining sector. Anglo had a number of problems of its own, so it wasn’t just the crash in metals and minerals prices that was to blame.

But since then, the price has soared by 140%, to 531p, so what’s been happening? It can’t be due to any sudden improvement in the company’s outlook, because there hasn’t been one. Forecasts still suggest a further 60% slump in earnings per share this year after a number of disastrous years, and the analysts’ consensus is still a pretty strong sell.

And with commodities demand still expected to be weak and erratic, the recent uptick in prices surely isn’t enough to explain it — Anglo’s competitors haven’t seen the same spike. One theory is that some short sellers are in a bit of a squeeze, and that’s the kind of thing that can accelerate a price rise. But whatever it is, will the rise continue? It’s a big no from me.

Cracking results

Admiral (LSE: ADM) has been on a dividend splurge in recent years, handing out surplus capital on top of its ordinary payments. And last week the insurer more than pleased its shareholders with a total dividend that beat expectations — a 16% rise to 114.4p per share, yielding 5.8%. The news gave the shares a boost on the day, of 9% to 1,919p, and they’ve since climbed further to 1,966p. That’s a 42% gain from the stock’s 52-week low point in July last year. Now the big question: will it continue?

Admiral’s excess capital comes from the Solvency II capital regulations coming into force this year, with the firm having a “significant surplus“. Accurate requirements won’t be known until 2017, and there are still two more years of dividends at current levels forecast. But what will happen when the surplus is gone?

Admiral told us that it’s raising ordinary dividends to 65% of earnings (from 45%), and expects to be able to pay out around 90% of its earnings as total dividends each year, at least for the foreseeable future. The income is looking safe then, and I give a thumbs-up to Admiral.

Take-off time

My third high-flyer for today is a recovering Rolls-Royce (LSE: RR), whose shares have been in a slump since late 2014 after a series of profit warnings. But a lack of further bad news with 2015’s results in February cheered the markets, and since a low on 9 February we’ve seen a 42% share price recovery to 707p.

A halving of the final dividend, with the intention of doing the same to this year’s interim, didn’t do any harm — in fact, it might have provided a bit of heartening support for the firm’s cost-savings plans, which long-term investors will surely want.

The only trouble is that a forecast 56% fall in earnings per share for this year would lift the P/E to 28, around twice the FTSE average And 2017’s mooted 31% recovery would drop that multiple only as far as 21.5. I see Rolls-Royce as a solid long-term company, but in the shorter term I don’t really see the shares’ bull run continuing for long.

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Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the 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.