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No downside in sight for Microsoft

Neither Netscape, the Feds, nor the Asian economic slump can stop Microsoft's stock from climbing ever higher.

Neither Netscape (NSCP), the Feds, nor the Asian economic slump can stop Microsoft's (MSFT) stock from climbing ever higher.

The software giant's shares were trading at 81-1/16, up 11/16, during midday trading today. The increase came as Smith Barney analyst Neil Herman raised his 12-month target for Microsoft to $95 per share. Herman called the company "attractively valued" and maintained his "buy" rating on the shares.

As reported on February 24, Microsoft has been knocking on the door of the $200 billion "market cap" club. The only other company in that group is General Electric (GE). The stock of the Redmond, Washington, company has traded somewhat lower since it hit a 52-week high of 86 in late February, with the shares appearing to get caught up in the overall slump in technology stocks, brought on by earnings warnings by Compaq (CPQ), Motorola (MOT), and Intel (INTC).

While in Australia earlier this week, globetrotting CEO Bill Gates indicated that Microsoft's second-quarter earnings were on track. In January, the company said it expected third-fiscal-quarter profits to be slightly higher than the 85 cents per share it earned in the second quarter. Analysts predict earnings of about 45 cents per share for the third quarter, after adjusting for a recent 2-for-1 stock split.

Later, in Kuala Lampur, Gates said the company would not be affected by the economic slowdown in Southeast Asia.

This year alone, Microsoft's stock has appreciated more than 25 percent. Its market capitalization now stands just shy of the $200 billion mark, at $197.2 billion.

The increase comes as the U.S. Justice Department and state attorneys general continue to turn up the heat on the software giant in their ongoing investigation of possible antitrust violations committed by the company. Microsoft denies any wrongdoing.

Microsoft also has been retooling its ballyhooed effort in new media, most recently by laying off some workers at its city guide, Sidewalk, as well as by canceling entertainment shows on its Microsoft Network.

Reuters contributed to this report.