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LONDON -- The FTSE 100 set a five-and-a-half-year record of 6,638 points last Friday, and though the index is down from that today at 6,617, it still looks like hanging on to the 6,600 level -- even if that absolute value is ultimately meaningless. The top-tier index is also set to record its sixth successive close above 6,500 today, barring any afternoon slump. Recent levels are a far cry from the FTSE's 52-week low of just 5,230 points, set on June 1, 2012.
Which of the U.K.'s major companies are helping push up the FTSE? Here are three reaching new highs of their own today:
Shares in pharmaceuticals giant and Beginners' Portfolio member GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK ) (NYSE: GSK ) are up nearly 20% over the past 12 months, having hit a 52-week high of 1,692 pence today -- though as I write, the price is back a penny from that on 1,691 pence.
Despite the effect of the "patent cliff" when drug protection expires, and threats from generic competition, Glaxo has keep earnings up and there's a modest rise expected for the year to December -- the firm appears to be managing its expansion into new biotechnology areas reasonably well. The P/E is around the FTSE average of 14 even after the rise, and we have a nice dividend yield of 4.7% forecast for 2013.
BT Group (LSE: BT-A ) shares spiked up strongly on Friday when the telecoms giant released very good annual results, and this morning edged up a little higher to set a new 12-month record of 310.8 pence before dropping a little to 305 pence. An 11% rise in pre-tax profits to 2.7 billion pounds and a 14% hike in the full-year dividend to 9.5 pence per share certainly helped.
In other news, BT is challenging BSkyB's dominance by planning to release its BT Sport channel, which will show 38 Premier League matches per season, free of charge to broadband customers who take its TV offering. And at the weekend, BT also told us it is to reenter the mobile phone market with a new BT-branded 4G network.
British American Tobacco
British American Tobacco (LSE: BATS ) has done it again, too, setting a new 52-week record price of 3,745.5 pence this morning. That takes the shares up more than 20% over the past 12 months. Despite the unhealthy nature of its products, the firm has enjoyed increasing demand for them, with its earnings rising steadily year after year.
There's a further 10% rise in earnings per share forecast for the year to December, putting the shares on a P/E of 16. Analysts are also expecting a dividend yield of 4%, which should be well covered.
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