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Google's Gallant Fan

Google (GOOG - Get Report) got a boost from Wall Street on a day that saw renewed speculation that the stock might be vulnerable.

CIBC World Markets analyst Michael Gallant upgraded the search-engine phenomenon from sector performer to sector outperformer over the weekend and placed a $245 price target on the stock.

News of the report coincides with the reported expiration of the last and biggest lockup on insider stock sales at Google. On Monday, analysts calculated, theoretically up to 177 milllion of Google's 286 million shares outstanding could come on the market, though many of those shares are in the hands of senior executives and are unlikely to hit the market anytime soon.

Google's shares fell $1.25 Monday to trade at $186.15. The stock, priced at $85 a share in Google's initial public offering of stock six months ago, hit a high of $216.80 in early February, following release of the company's surprisingly good fourth-quarter earnings .

While Gallant's price target is by no means a Street-high estimate -- that distinction is the $275 target published by Credit Suisse First Boston and, separately, American Technology Research -- Gallant's report signals Wall Street's growing comfort with the financial performance of a prickly newcomer to the public markets.

Now that the company has gotten through two quarters' worth of financial statements, neither Google's rapidly rising stock price nor forecasts of runaway growth for the company seems as outrageous as it once might have.

In his report, dated Sunday, Gallant says the roughly 31% upside implied (at Friday's closing price) to his price target contrasts with a 9% risk to his expected floor for the stock of $170.

Behind the upgrade is Gallant's perception that certain risks posed to Google are diminishing, such as that represented by the biggest new entrant in the search business, Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) MSN.
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