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Apple chases elusive 52-week high

Apple Computer's stock has been surging, but when it comes to breaking through to a new 52-week high, it's been "close but no cigar."

Apple Computer's (AAPL) stock has been surging, but when it comes to breaking through to a new 52-week high, it's been "close but no cigar."

As reported, the stock has jumped since the start of the year, outpacing the gains of computing giants such as Compaq (CPQ), Dell (DELL), IBM (IBM), and Hewlett-Packard (HWP). This year, Apple stock has appreciated 90 percent.

But as the company's shares approached their 52-week high of 29-3/4 recently, the stock retreated. The stock closed down 1/2 yesterday, at 25, but inched back up slightly today, to close at 25-5/8.

Many analysts haven't spent much time worrying about the fall-off. "Talk to a chartist," said Peter Lieu, analyst for Adams Harkness in New York.

But recording a new 52-week high would represent a major psychological breakthrough for the beleaguered PC maker, which lately has been invigorated under acting chief executive Steve Jobs. Apple stock chart The company has cut costs, dropped Newton, and begun selling products directly via its Web site. As a result, Apple posted a long-awaited profit in its first fiscal quarter.

One possible reason for the retreat in Apple's shares is that analysts are waiting for the company's second fiscal quarter earnings announcement, said Wendy Abramowitz, an analyst with Argus Research. That announcement is expected next Wednesday after the market closes.

According to First Call, analysts are estimating that Apple will post a profit of 16 cents per share, compared with a loss of $1.42 a share for the like quarter the previous year. The range of estimates is between 7 cents and 32 cents per share.

In addition, investors are uncertain about who will become the company's permanent CEO. The board recently told Jobs he could stay as long as he wanted, but the company is still searching for a permanent replacement. An update could be provided at the upcoming April 22 stockholders meeting.

Apple also faces continued uncertainty in its business. Despite making progress, it must expand its market share and battle intense competition, analysts said.