LONDON -- The FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE ) has been hitting fresh four-month highs this week, reaching 5,851 at the close of play on Thursday. That means there's only another 116 points to beat the 52-week high of 5,966 set in March. And who knows; even the meaningless 6,000 mark could be achieved shortly.
But even if the level itself isn't important, it's good to see the blue-chip index moving further and further from the year's low of 4,944 in October.
Of course, individual shares in the FTSE indexes are reaching new 52-week highs every day. Here are three that have achieved that feat this week.
Next (LSE: NXT.L )
Though there are quite a few shares hitting new highs right now, I'm picking Next as my first example, as I think it's a good indicator of the recovering retail sector. Next shares hit a 52-week high of 3,548 pence on Thursday.
I examined the retail sector recently, and a few of the shares I looked at have done well since then, but none so well as Next. In my experience, Next is a well-managed company that has always been at the head of its sector. The shares have gained 10% in August alone.
City forecasts put the shares on a forward P/E of 13 for the current year, which is perhaps not low in these times, but it falls to 11.7 for next year -- and the best companies are rarely lowly valued.
Pace (LSE: PIC.L )
Pace can't do anything wrong at the moment, it seems, as the set-top box specialist achieved another new high of 166 pence on Thursday. It all started with interim results released on July 24, and although they told of a tough first half hit by a world shortage of hard disks, the outlook appeared positively glowing. There was also a 15% boost to the first-half dividend.
Since those results, the shares have rallied 45%. But even after that impressive rise, current forecasts still put the shares on a forward P/E of 9.9, falling to 8.1 for 2013 -- so even now they're not looking overpriced.
Vodafone (LSE: VOD.L )
It was nice to see Vodafone hit a new high of 191.7 pence on Wednesday, as it's a constituent of our Beginners' Portfolio, having been picked when the shares were selling for 168.5 pence. Vodafone shares have, in fact, gained 17% in a strong surge since May's low of 164.3 pence, and current forecasts are looking strong.
Forecast P/E ratios for March 2013 and March 2014 stand at 11.9 and 11.4, respectively, which would probably represent fair value right now. But add in an estimated dividend yield of about 7%, coupled with Vodafone's plan to raise its payout by at least 7% per year, and the shares still look cheap to me.
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