Another day, another record -- that's how it seems to be for the FTSE 100 (FTSE: ^FTSE - news) right now. And today is no exception, as the index of top UK shares broke through the 6,800 barrier for the first time since the dotcom madness at the start of the century -- though it is back a bit on 6,787 points as I write. We have seen strong company results lately, but is the optimism premature? Considering we're not out of the economic woods yet, things might be getting a bit too overheated just now.
But whatever the reasons for the mini-boom, let's take a look at three individual companies setting their own new records:
Shares in BP ended yesterday on a 52-week record close of 477.7p and are slightly up on that at 478.9p at the time of writing. Over the period, the price has gained about 20%, as the oil & gas giant emerges from the Gulf of Mexico disaster -- though the oil spill is still weighing on the company, as the full extent of the clean-up costs are as yet uncertain.
Based on forecasts for the year to December 2013, BP shares are on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 9, and the expected dividend of around 24p (which should be more than twice covered) would provide a yield of 5.3%.
Mark & Spencer
Yesterday's full-year results sent Marks & Spencer Group shares to a new 12-month record price of 470p, even though the high-street stalwart reported falls in pre-tax profit and in earnings per share -- but the annual dividend was maintained at 17p per share. After the hike, M&S shares are up around 35% over the past year.
The shares are now on a trailing P/E of 16, which is a little above the FTSE's long-term average of around 14, suggesting there is some confidence in M&S's recovery. Forecasts for 2014 drop the P/E to just under 14, and suggest a dividend yield of about 4%.
For most FTSE 100 companies, a 150% share price rise over a year would be just a dream. But that's just what has happened to easyJet after the budget airline's share price hit a 52-week record of 1,274p this morning -- it's currently on 1,271p after falling back a few pennies. Last week's interim report, which showed revenue rising by 9.3% and the expected winter loss falling by nearly half, provided the latest boost.
With earnings growth of around a third forecast for the full year, the shares are on a forward P/E of 15, which seems perhaps reasonable for a growth share -- but airlines can be very risky investments.
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> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article.