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Microsoft hits 52-week high

The software giant's stock hits another 52-week high, continuing its run-up from last week's Windows 98 release.

Microsoft stock hit another 52-week high in midday trading today, continuing its run-up from last week, when the software giant released its Windows 98 operating system.

The company?s stock was trading at 107.5, up 3.0625. It has traded as high as 106.875 and as low as 59 during the past 52 weeks. Nearly 14.9 million shares changed hands.

Microsoft's rising market value, buoyed by the release of Windows 98, has helped solidify Bill Gates's position as the world's richest man. His net worth now stands at more than $50 billion.

The company's market capitalization Microsoft stock chart has climbed steadily this year, reaching more than $260 billion. Earlier this year, its market value surpassed the $200 billion mark for the first time, joining General Electric as the only other company in this elite group.

Wall Street analysts remain enthusiastic about Microsoft's stock, helped by last week's U.S. Court of Appeals decision to overturn an injunction prohibiting the Redmond, Washington-based company from requiring PC makers to include its Internet Explorer Web browser with Windows 95. The decision gives Microsoft a potent weapon in a newer government suit focusing on Windows 98.

"Some of the issues with the Justice Department have been minimized with words from the appeals court," said Christopher Galvin, an analyst with investment banking firm Hambrecht & Quist. "That was good PR news."

Although Microsoft has downplayed the less-than-stellar sales prospects of Windows 98, Galvin said the company's value actually has been helped by the release last week of the upgraded operating system. Once again, he said, the company is "well-positioned in front of a big product cycle."

Microsoft warned recently of a possible earnings slowdown, but many analysts remain bullish nevertheless. They contend that Microsoft routinely posts better-than-expected results.

"Microsoft always undersells and over-delivers," Galvin said.

Investment banking firm Deutsche Morgan Grenfell today reiterated its "buy" rating on Microsoft's stock today, citing what is expected to be strong roll-out of Windows 98.

Reuters contributed to this report.