Microsoft shares peaked at 118.25 before closing the day at 117.5625, up 4.375 or nearly 4 percent. The activity marks a new 52-week high for the company, whose shares have traded as high as 113.25 and as low as 59 during the past 52 weeks.
The software giant is expected to announce its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings after the markets close Thursday, and is getting attention for better-than-expected sales of its new Windows 98 operating system. News of glitches in the OS has not hampered the stock's performance, which is up significantly since late June.
Because the updated operating system only began shipping June 25, analysts don't expect Windows 98 revenues to affect Microsoft's fiscal fourth-quarter profits significantly, but speculation about whether the Redmond-Washington-based company will beat Wall Street's consensus estimate of a profit of 48 cents a share may be driving the surge. More than 17.3 million Microsoft shares changed hands today.
Windows 98 sales appear to be stronger than expected, but "it's unclear whether those sales are sustainable," because the buyers largely could be early adopters, said Lou Mazzucchelli, an analyst with Gerard Klauer Mattison.
Meanwhile, Dell hit a new record when its shares closed today at 106.1875, up 5.375 or more than 5 percent. Dell shares have traded as high as 102 and as low as 32.1562 during the past 52 weeks. The stock has climbed steadily since the first of the year, when the PC maker's shares hovered around the $40-a-share mark.