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Microsoft passes $200 billion mark

Bill Gates and the gang at Microsoft have joined the $200 billion "market cap" club, joining General Electric, the only other company in this category.

It's official: Bill Gates and the gang at Microsoft (MSFT) have marched into the $200 billion "market cap" club, joining General Electric (GE), the only other company in this category.

The company secured its position in the top spot in today's trading, when its shares jumped 3-7/8, to 88-13/16, reaching a new 52-week high. That put the software giant's market capitalization at more than $216 billion, compared with $268 for GE. Microsoft's stock rose a day after the company said it would beat Wall Street estimates for the current quarter. At the time, the company also warned of slow growth ahead--not much of a deterrent.

As reported earlier, Microsoft has been knocking at the door of the $200 billion market cap club during the past month. Its position now seems more solid. Today's market activity is a milestone not only for the software giant, but for all high-technology companies, which increasingly are wielding clout on Wall Street. Microsoft is a "20-something" year-old company, while GE traces its roots to Thomas Edison in 1878.

This year alone, Microsoft's stock has climbed more than 37 percent--despite the uncertainty of a regulatory inquiry into its business practices. Microsoft denies any wrongdoing.

The run-up in the company's stock helped push the Nasdaq to a record 1824.68 today, up 12.24 points, according to an unofficial tally. Intel (INTC) stock rose 1-5/8, to 76-1/16; Dell (DELL) climbed 2-3/16, to 67-15/16; and Cisco (CSCO) jumped 1-3/4, to 69-9/16. Apple (AAPL) closed down 27/32, at 27-5/32, while 3Com (COMS) fell 1-3/4, to 35-1/2. 3Com surprised Wall Street yesterday with lower-than-expected earnings.

Gates's personal net worth is climbing right along with that of his company. He is now well north of $40 billion, and, if he wants, Gates also gets bragging rights over his friend Warren Buffett, the nation's second-richest man behind him. Buffett is a significant stockholder in Coca-Cola (KO), which was surpassed by Microsoft last year as the second-most valuable company.