LONDON -- It seems a long time since the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES:^FTSE) was hitting new highs almost daily, but it's actually less than three weeks since the index of top U.K. companies touched 6,876 points -- its highest level in 13 years. Since then, the index has fallen by about 7% to today's closing level of 6,400. But the index is still up 18% over the past 12 months, which is pretty good going.
And even if the FTSE itself is off its highs, there are plenty of individual shares breaking new ground and hitting fresh peaks. Here are three from the various indexes that have been on a climb and look set to beat the market today.
Whitbread shares reached a new 52-week high of 2,936 pence today before dropping back a bit to close at 2,925 pence -- still enough to beat the previous record. The company has seen profits rising nicely for its Premier Inn and Costa Coffee brands, and that has helped the share price gain 50% over 12 months.
With three years of double-digit earnings-per-share rises behind it, Whitbread is forecast to repeat the feat for the next two years. The shares are on a higher-than-average forward P/E of 17 for the year to February 2014, but if growth carries on at current rates, that could prove to be good value.
Soft-furnishings retailer Dunelm Group, best known for its Dunelm Mills brand, has had an even better year, with its shares up more than 80%. They hit a new 12-month high of 924 pence today and finished the session at 921.5. Dunelm has grown its earnings and dividends steadily for years, and things were looking good again at the third-quarter stage in April: Total sales were up 14%, with like-for-likes up 3.2%.
The full year to June 30 is forecast to bring in a 12% rise in EPS, but the shares are on a relatively lofty P/E of 22.5, with the growing dividend yielding less than 2%.
The pick-up in the homebuilding sector has had knock-on effects for companies such as Headlam Group, which supplies floor-covering products. After gaining more than 30% over the past year, the shares ended last week on a closing high of 378.75 pence -- they're slightly down since then to 375 pence.
The City is expecting no earnings growth this year, but there should be a well-covered dividend yielding around 4% from shares on a fairly modest P/E of less than 15 -- and there's growth in earnings and dividends penciled in for 2014.
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Alan Oscroft has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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