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Oracle closes at all-time high

Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) shares rallied up 2 5/16 to an all-time high of 43 13/16 Tuesday on optimism the world's largest database software developer will top analysts' estimates in its first quarter.

First Call consensus expects Oracle to earn 16 cents a share in the quarter. The results will be released Sept. 14.

Last quarter, Oracle beat Street estimates by 4 cents a share, earning $527 million, or 36 cents a share, on sales of $2.9 billion.

Some analysts had been concerned that Y2K spending from large corporate clients would crimp Oracle's sales and earnings this quarter.

The stock was trading at a 52-week low of 13 7/8 last September.

The first quarter is typically Oracle's slowest period due to reduced demand for database products as well as the strong year-end push by its sales personnel.

In late August, CEO Larry Ellison told analysts the first-quarter numbers "look good," raising speculation that Oracle might beat the consensus number by a couple cents a share.

Ellison also said the company had continued to make progress on its plan to cut $1 billion in expenses over the next 18 months, and he predicted the software maker's operating margins would improve.

Oracle is now trading at a price-to-earnings ratio of 53.

Twenty-six of the 32 analysts covering the stock rate it either a "buy" or "strong buy."

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