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Top MS analyst upbeat on deal with DoJ

Is this a hint that Ballmer and his merry men want to fold?

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Clear signs that Microsoft is edging closer to a settlement with the Department of Justice emerged today, via comments by influential Goldman Sachs analyst Rick Sherlund. Fresh from a meeting with Microsoft CFO John Connors, Sherlund said that the company management "appears very focused on settling the lawsuit." It remains possible that there's more than a little Microsoft spin to this, but even Redmond is likely to be cautious about spinning to somebody quite as weighty as Sherlund. Microsoft stock price kicked upwards immediately after his comments, made in a note to investors. Sherlund also suggested that a settlement would be a relief to investors, and would possibly be "a catalyst that could drive the stock up ten points." So maybe a picture is starting to emerge. The new management team under Ballmer is briefing analysts that it wants to settle, while from the other end there's pressure building from investors. And of course there's that dangled carrot of the potential stock price kick if the skies suddenly cleared. Bill might still be agin it, and the price might still be too high, but an unholy pro-settlement alliance may be emerging. ®

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