3 FTSE Shares Hitting New Highs

LONDON -- The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) is now solidly above the 6,500 level, but it's shying away from the five-year record of 6,534 points it set on Tuesday. By 12:10 p.m. EDT, the index of top U.K. shares is up 0.76% to 6,530 and a long way from its 52-week low of 5,230 points set last June. And it looks like we're in for the eighth successive close above 6,400 today.

But what of individual index constituents? Here are three setting new highs today.

Associated British Foods (LSE: ABF  )
Associated British Foods shares hit a 52-week high of 1,898 pence this morning and are down a touch to 1,896 this afternoon. That takes the price of the 15 billion pound FTSE 100 giant up more than 55% over the past 12 months.

The shares were boosted by last month's pre-close interim update, which told of an "above expectations" period, with Primark sales up about 23% on the first half of the previous year. Forecasts are suggesting a 10% rise in full-year earnings per share -- but the recent price rise does put the shares on a relatively lofty P/E of more than 19.

Compass (LSE: CPG  )
Shares in food services company Compass have had a storming run, too, gaining more than 25% over the past 12 months and reaching a new 52-week high of 844.5 pence today. Compass has performed well throughout the recession, with earnings per share growing for five straight years. The dividend has been lifted year on year, too, rising from 12 pence per share in 2008 to a 2012 payout of 21.3 pence per share. Forecasts suggest more of the same for the next two years.

Persimmon (LSE: PSN  )
I'm pleased to see Persimmon shares up 80% since last summer's low and ending yesterday on a new closing high of 957 pence, as I added the homebuilder to the Fool's Beginners' Portfolio during July last year. The shares gained a further 0.7% today to 963.5 pence.

Persimmon plans to pay a 75 pence per-share dividend in June, then nothing else until a planned 95 pence per-share payout two years from now -- and there aren't many companies with such firm dividend plans. With a couple of strong years already behind it, Persimmon has earnings growth of about 15% forecast for each of the next two years.

Even if your shares aren't hitting new highs, dividends can add nicely to your investment returns -- they can be spent or reinvested, according to your needs. Whether you're investing for income or growth, good old cash is always welcome. And that's why I recommend the brand-new Fool report "The Motley Fool's Top Income Share For 2013," in which our top analysts identify a share they believe will provide handsome dividend income for years to come. But the report will be available for a limited period only, so click here to enjoy your copy today.


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