LONDON -- The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE ) is continuing its upward climb, having gained 16 points, or 0.25%, to reach 6,354 by 8:15 a.m. EST. The banking sector has been helping to keep the U.K.'s top-tier index afloat after Barclays shares soared yesterday on the back of a 26% rise in profits.
And banks are in the news again today. We look at three FTSE companies scaling new heights.
Lloyds (LSE: LLOY ) (NYSE: LYG )
Lloyds Banking Group is the latest of our big banks to reach a new record, with its shares closing on a 52-week high of 55.45 pence yesterday before dropping back a little today to 54.7 pence. Forecasts for the year ending December 2012 suggest a pre-tax profit of nearly 2 billion pounds, and the bank's third-quarter update reported underlying profit of 1.9 billion pounds for the nine months, so that looks promising.
But the real return to pre-crash profit isn't expected until 2013 and beyond, with about 3 billion pounds predicted this year and 4 billion pounds for 2014. On 2012 expectations, the price-to-earnings ratio is a high 20, but that falls to 13 and 10, respectively, for the next two years. Results for 2012 are expected on March 1.
Carnival (LSE: CCL )
Shares in cruise operator Carnival closed on a new high yesterday of 2,628 pence, though they have fallen back this morning to 2,602 pence. That's still a rise of about 35% over the past 12 months, putting the shares on a P/E of 17 based on forecasts for the year to November 2013.
This comes after a couple of years of falling earnings for the owner of the ill-fated Costa Concordia liner and reflects growing confidence in the travel and leisure sector in general. The full-year dividend yield is expected to be around 2.7%.
easyJet (LSE: EZJ )
And in the same sector, easyJet shares are up to a 52-week high of 997.5 pence as I write. Overall, the price has more than doubled over the past 12 months, reinforcing the new management strategy forced through by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
After the company grew earnings per share for three straight years, forecasts suggest a further rise of about 25% this year, putting the shares on a P/E of 13. Is that high for an airline? Well, it's a risky business, but easyJet has rewarded shareholders so far.
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