LONDON -- The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES:^FTSE) finished today at a new 52-week high of 6,504 points, up 0.31% on the day. More than that, the index of the U.K.'s biggest companies is setting new five-year records, having remained above 2008's pre-crash peak of 6,304 points since the end of February.
For the index to be setting new records, its constituent companies need to be doing the same. Here are three whose shares are flying high right now.
BAE Systems (LSE:BA) (NASDAQOTH:BAESY)
Shares in aerospace and defense engineer BAE Systems, a constituent of the Fool's Beginners' Portfolio, ended last week on a 52-week closing high of 367.1 pence and have risen slightly today to 367.6 pence. That takes BAE up 35% since last summer, but forecasts for the year to December 2013 year still put the shares on a forward price-to-earnings ratio of less than nine.
After earnings per share fell by 15% for the year to December 2012, there's a 10% rebound expected this year (with a flat 2014 to follow). But there's also a 5.5% dividend yield forecast, and the payout should be about twice covered by earnings. Do BAE shares look cheap? That's for you to decide.
Standard Life (LSE:SL)
Standard Life has been on a good run of late, and its shares ended last week on a new 52-week closing high of 381 pence. The insurer has had a good year overall, having enjoyed a 90% rise from its 12-month low point back in June last year. Although full-year forecasts for December 2013 suggest an earnings-per-share fall of about 25%, the current share price puts the shares on a P/E of more than 17. With a dividend yield of more than 4% predicted and an earnings rise forecast for the following year, that might not look too high. And it seems less likely that Standard Life will cut its dividend as a couple of big insurers have done, with the firm having announced a dividend lift for the 2012 year last week.
Weir Group (LSE:WEIR)
Weir Group ended on a closing high of 2,316 pence on Friday, and today they've left that record in the dust, rising a further 2.4% to 2,474 pence. Reflecting renewed confidence in the engineer sector, Weir, which develops products for oil and gas and industrial markets, has seen a share price gain of more than 70% since the summer. Weir has recorded rising earnings right through the past few years and boosted dividends for good measure, and it's forecast to carry on doing the same this year. Forecasts for December 2013 include a 4% rise in earnings and an 8% rise in the dividend.
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 it will only be available for a limited period, so click here to get your copy today.