Unilever (LSE: ULVR), Debenhams (LSE: DEB) and William Hill (LSE: WMH) reach new highs.
The FTSE 100 (UKX) seems to be hovering a shade short of the 5,700 level this week, following on from a strong week last week. That's still a long way off its 52-week high of 6,055 points, achieved on 7 July 2011, but it's generally heading in the right direction.
Of course, an index only reflects the highs and lows of its individual members. We take a look at three shares hitting 52-week highs today, as they help push the FTSE indices upwards...
Good old safe, boring, Unilever (LSE: ULVR) gained 19p to hit a 52-week high of 2,202p today, before falling back a little. It's not a massive rise on the day, but it represents the slow and steady nature of companies like this that make up the backbone of many a long-term portfolio.
Most of all, companies like Unilever, which makes so many everyday consumer essentials that it's hard not to be a customer, provide safe long-term dividends, and hold their value well through economic downturns. Unilever is offering a prospective dividend yield of 3.6%, and that's one of the steadiest on the market.
What, Debenhams (LSE: DEB), on the blighted high street, reaching a 52-week high?
Yes, a strong push over the past month has helped it hit 87p today, though the morning's rise was only a quarter of a penny.
The shares are up 70% on their 52-week low point of 51.2p back in September 2011, which is a nice return in anybody's book. Forecasts suggest a 3.6% dividend yield for the year ending August 2012, rising to 4% for 2013.
Bookmaker William Hill (LSE: WMH) is our third to reach new heights today, reaching 290.2p, for a 2.8p gain. The increasing popularity of online gambling has helped the shares gain 58% from their 52-week low point of 183.3p in December.
After such a strong rise, are the shares still worth buying? Well, there's a 3.7% dividend forecast for this year, with 4% pencilled in for next, and those payouts should be covered two and a half fold by earnings, so they're likely to be safe. I can think of worse companies to buy.
Finally, if you want to find shares that have a good chance of reaching new highs over the longer term, the free report "Top Sectors Of 2012", put together by The Motley Fool's top analysts, should give you some ideas of where to look.
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> Alan Oscroft does not own any shares mentioned in this article.