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Concerns linger on new Apple high

The computer maker's stock soars, buoyed by larger-than-expected third-quarter profits and increases in analysts' earnings estimates.

Apple Computer's stock soared to a new 52-week high in morning trading today, buoyed by its larger-than-expected third-quarter profits and increases in analysts' earnings estimates.

At the same time, however, concern continued to linger over the lack of growth in Apple's revenues, and some analysts doubt the computer maker will be able to achieve sustainable increases.

Only two analysts by late morning had upped their recommendation to a "buy." Meanwhile, nine analysts had a "hold" on the stock, while one had a "sell." They also pointed to Apple's $1.4 billion in third-quarter revenues, which declined from the corresponding period of last year and were flat from the previous quarter.

The Mac maker posted a third-quarter profit of $101 million--marking its third straight quarter in the black--but some analysts note that this was the result of a good tax rate.

Investors were unfazed by such caveats, sending Apple's shares as high as 38.3750 in morning trading, up 11.4 percent from yesterday. Apple had reported its earnings after the market's close.

Daniel Kunstler with J.P. Morgan Securities was one of two analysts to raise his recommendation. He raised it to a "buy" from "long-term buy."

Kunstler's upgrade was prompted by Apple's improving asset management, and the "excitement" that is growing over its new consumer computer, iMac. The iMac is slated to begin shipping August 15.

Although few analysts today were ready to recommend a buy on the stock, a number felt more comfortable raising their earnings estimates for the quarter and Apple's fiscal year, which ends in September.

Based on nine analysts who issued earnings comments on Apple this morning, all raised their fourth-quarter estimates, bringing the consensus for the group to 48 cents per share. The previous fourth-quarter consensus was 44 cents per share, according to First Call.

And for the year, ten analysts issued an earnings briefing, with eight increasing their estimates. Based on those ten analysts, the consensus for fiscal 1998 is $2.05 per share. Prior to Apple's third-quarter report, the consensus for the year was $1.82 per share.