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Microsoft Stock Knocked Down by Warning

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. (NasdaqNM:MSFT - news) shares, already battered by a judge's ruling that the software giant was an abusive monopoly, were hit by more bad news on Wednesday when a Wall Street analyst trimmed his revenue forecast for the company, citing a sluggish PC market.

Shares in the Redmond, Wash.-based company slid 3 7/8, or more than 4 percent, to 80 shortly after midday on the Nasdaq stock market. Volume was high, with 45 million shares changing hands compared to a daily average of about 37 million.

The drop followed comments by Rick Sherlund, an analyst with investment house Goldman Sachs who is considered a top Microsoft authority. He cut his revenue forecast for the company's third quarter to $5.75 billion from $5.95 billion.

Sherlund cited sluggish demand for personal computers.

He said the lower revenues would translate into a drop in profits of 2 cents per share. But he said the shortfall would likely be made up by gains in Microsoft's thick investment portfolio, which the software company has consistently used to fatten its bottom line and beat Wall Street earnings estimates.

Microsoft shares have been pummeled since April 3, when a federal judge found the company had violated antitrust laws, exposing it to potentially harsh penalties and a flood of civil lawsuits seeking damages.

In the wake of that ruling, most analysts sounded bullish notes on the company's future, saying it had a strong line-up of new products in the second half of this year and that sales of its new business operating system, Windows 2000, appeared strong.

Wednesday's drop in the company's shares was part of a broad sell-off in technology companies; the technology-laden Nasdaq index (^IXIC - news) was off 136, or more than 3 percent, at 3919 shortly after midday.

Microsoft's share price has fallen about 20 percent from more than 106 just before the judge's ruling. On Wednesday the stock was just above its 52-week low of 75 1/2.

Once the most highly valued company in the world, Microsoft's market capitalization is now about $413 billion, down from more than $550 billion less than two weeks ago.


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