Microsoft Catches a Bid

After lagging for much of the stock market rally since October, Microsoft has begun a stealth rally.

Held back by insider selling, price cuts and fears of competition from Linux, Microsoft stock has been mired in a downtrend since December. But in the last six days, Microsoft has risen 10%, buoyed by favorable legal developments and rumors that the company may report a strong quarter next month. The company also sued spammers today.

By one measure – the free cash it generates – Microsoft may be the cheapest stock among the Dow 30, trading at just 18 times free cash flow. The stock gapped above its 200-day moving average today (25.38). To the upside, the stock has continually been stymied by its 20-month moving average, currently at 26.75.

Its legal and competitive troubles aside, investors appear to be warming up to Microsoft again. And with all that cash, that’s easy to understand.

The broader market was mixed Tuesday, as consumer inflation data eased deflation fears, but industrial production and capacity utilization provided no hope for an immediate recovery in manufacturing.

The Nasdaq rose 1 to 1668, the S&P 500 climbed 1 to 1011, and the Dow added 4 to 9323. Volume rose to 1.46 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.97 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led by 17-15 on the NYSE, but advancers led 16-15 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 53% on the NYSE, and 63% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 391-5 on the NYSE, and 273-2 on the Nasdaq.

After the close, Red Hat met estimates.

During the day, DoubleClick fell 6% on a secondary debt offering. The company also raised estimates.

Transmeta fell on news that the company is losing Linux creator Linus Torvalds.

SanDisk gained 4.7% on a deal with Sony .

Intersil rose 5% on a positive WiFi developments.

Engage fell 87% after filing for bankruptcy.

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