Just 13 shares make up more than 50% of the FTSE 100. If you want to know where the index is headed in 2013, you need to consider how its most important companies will fare.
Let's take a quick look at how BP (LSE: BP) (NYSE: BP.US), GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK) and British American Tobacco (LSE: BATS) (NYSE: BTI.US) are set for the year ahead.
BP yesterday announced a 19% drop in quarterly profits. While this may sound a worrying decline, there are plenty of reasons to expect things to turn around in 2013.
BP has confirmed that production is expected to increase this year, after remaining broadly unchanged in 2012.
Since the Gulf of Mexico disaster, BP has been selling off peripheral assets. The company also has a new Russian deal in place that is expected to complete in the first half of this year.
BP shares trade on a 2013 price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just 7.8. At today's price, the expected dividend yield is 5.8%.
Glaxo shares are remarkably solid. Despite the horrors of the eurozone crisis, for the last three years, the shares have traded in a range between 1,100p and 1,500p.
This is likely due to the nature of the company's sales and products. Pharmaceuticals consumers rarely have any real choice whether to buy medicines. As a result, expectations for Glaxo's future sales, profits and dividends are quite consistent.
This year, Glaxo is forecast to increase its earnings by 4.5% and its dividend by 4.2%. This puts the shares on a 2013 P/E of 12.3. The expected yield is 5.4%.
British American Tobacco
Tobacco consumers are a loyal bunch. They are loyal to their habit and their brands. Tobacco firms are thus regarded as some of the safest investments on the market. Analysts often call shares like BATS 'defensives'. The company's recent record shows that BATS is worthy of being called a 'growth' company.
In the last five years, BATS has increased its sales by an average of 9.5% per annum. Earnings per share has increased at an average rate of 10.1% a year. The shareholder dividend has advanced by a stonking 17.7% a year on average.
That is an impressive record but it does not mean that the shares should be bought whatever the price. BATS currently trades on 14.6 times forecast earnings for 2013. That does not leave much room for disappointment.
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