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Market stargazing 2014

City experts believe we should be in for an easy ride this year as we launch our new portfolio of six shares for 2014 in an attempt to beat the performance of the FTSE 100 share index for the 12th successive year since we began our portfolio service back in January 2003.

Virtually all brokers believe that the next 12 months will see the benchmark index finally top the record 6930 mark it hit before the dotcom bubble burst at the end of 1999, with the highly respected team at Citigroup setting a target of 8000 - nearly 20% above the current level (the FTSE closed at 6749 on December 31).

We are also in optimistic mood, although we can see some dark clouds on the horizon and are conscious that current euphoria could soon melt away if the strong pound bites into export earnings and potential interest rate hikes hit fragile consumer confidence.

Even so, we believe we have chosen six shares which should flourish in present conditions and will more than hold their own in the event of a stock market downturn.

Scots may have mixed views about former Weir boss Mark Selway, who presided over a period of savage cost-cutting before quitting in 2009, but followers believe he will quickly make his mark after taking over as chief executive of engineering giant IMI on January 1.

A further drive to increase efficiency and to dispose of poor performing subsidiaries is taken as a matter of course under the tough Aussie, but he is also expected to expand IMI's fluid-based control systems into more profitable areas with bolt-on acquisitions in areas such as air conditioning and retail services.

IMI has been going through some tough times along with other manufacturing companies, but is believed to have seen some improvement in recent weeks after a flat opening to 2013 and is poised to announce a healthy increase to profits for last year, before taking account of any changes brought about by the new broom.

Renewable energy group Infinis, chaired by former SSE boss Ian Marchant, has seen its share price tumble more than 15% since it made its stock market debut in November.

Reasons are not hard to find, with the UK Government warning of cutbacks to green subsidies and the firm's directors talking of uncertainties over its heavy investment in Scotland ahead of the independence vote.

But brokers at Beaufort believe that fears have been overdone, pointing out that directors had planned their current expansion programme in expectation of cuts to their financial inducements, and that the company is able to afford generous dividend payments from cash flow.

At current levels, the shares look set to reward buyers with £8 in dividends for every £100 invested, which is among the highest yields currently available for income-seekers.

Glasgow-based Smart Metering Systems also suffered from UK Government cuts, its shares taking a sharp knock on news of further delays to a mandatory meter installation programme for households.

But followers say the company could gain from the delay as it frees up capacity for the more lucrative market in supplying commercial and industrial premises. The group recently announced a 43% jump in recurring rental income in the first half of the year.

We tipped shares in Scottish cloud computing specialist Iomart this time last year, but sold out with a 40%-plus gain when they ran into profit-taking after hefty share sales by Angus MacSween and other directors.

At current levels, though, we make no apologies for returning to the company with no fewer than three broking firms now rating them a "strong buy", forecasting a 50% jump in profits for 2014.

Energy efficient lighting specialist Dialight is another to have attracted a fan club in recent weeks. Its shares took a plunge in September when directors said they would not meet earlier profit expectations after delays to a big US order. But directors are likely to produce a more encouraging update later this month.

House brokers at Canaccord look for a 40% profits jump in 2014. They believe the shares could soar from the current 850p to 1450p over the next 12 months.

Home-furnishing group Dunelm, controlled by the billionaire Adderley family, has demonstrated its abilities to cope with tough conditions as a result of the lengthy housing market downturn and should be a prime beneficiary of the sharp upturn in activity south of the Border.

The potential for further expansion in lucrative markets in London and the southeast of England gives added spice.

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