LONDON -- The FTSE 100 is perking up a bit today, gaining 11 points as of 8:15 a.m. EST as a number of our larger companies are on the up. In fact, the index of top U.K. stocks is now only 110 points below its 52-year high of 5,989 -- though it does keep falling back again each time it gets close.
So what is driving the various FTSE indexes? Here are three companies whose shares are flying today.
Tesco received a long-awaited boost today from its third-quarter update, and the share price responded by gaining 2,9% to 336 pence. Overall group sales (excluding petrol) rose by 2.9% in the three months to Nov. 24, while U.K. sales rose by 2.3%. The company's plan to upgrade its U.K. shopping experience appears to be bearing fruit, with like-for-like food sales up 1.2%.
But business at Tesco's American Fresh & Easy chain has not been good, and it looks like the firm will be exiting the U.S. market. Tesco told us it is conducting a strategic review and that "all options" are being considered.
Shares in Stagecoach rose 3.3% to 301 pence after the rail and bus operator reported a 66% leap in first-half EPS to 16.8 pence on a 5.9% rise in like-for-like revenue to 1.4 billion pounds. The firm, which co-owns Virgin Rail, sounded cautious about the second half, saying: "We expect revenue growth in the second half of the financial year ending 30 April 2013 to remain relatively modest."
Are Stagecoach shares a bargain? Well, full-year City forecasts put them on a price-to-earnings ratio of less than 11, and there's a well-covered dividend yield of 3% expected, so they just might be.
Home Retail Group, the owner of Argos, saw its shares soar 8% to 122 pence after announcing a new appointment to the board of directors. Jacqueline de Rojas, who is VP and U.K. general manager of IT company CA Technologies, has taken on the role of nonexecutive director and is expected to provide expertise to help the firm's transformation of Argos into a leading online retailer.
This latest price boost adds to the steady progress the shares have made since the firm's announcement of its big Argos revamp in its halftime results in October.
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