Microsoft ( MSFT) may be guarded about its near-term prospects, but that doesn't mean Wall Street has to be. In its
fiscal first-quarter report Thursday, the software behemoth cautioned analysts that second-quarter results will likely come in below expectations. And despite a massive stock-buyback program -- which theoretically should boost earnings per share -- the company declined to ratchet up its full-year profit prediction. But in reports issued following Microsoft's report, Wall Street analysts were, on the whole, notably more bullish than the company. The consensus view: With a slew of new products launching over the next year, Microsoft's share price -- and results -- are poised for growth. The company is in a position to benefit from a rally in software stocks, said Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Jason Maynard in his report. Helping Microsoft's cause: The company's earnings outlook is conservative and has built-in upside, thanks to all the new products to come, its buyback program and the company's ability -- demonstrated on Thursday -- to outperform on the bottom line even when revenue may be a bit light, he said. "Normally, we would not expect shares of low-beta Microsoft to participate in such a rally; however, with depressed near-term expectations, a bias toward upward earnings revisions, and the highly-anticipated Xbox 360 launch, we believe it could buck the trend," said Maynard, who upped his rating on the company's stock from neutral to outperform. Microsoft has been an investment banking client of CSFB in the last year. Investors seemed caught somewhere in between the company's assessment and analysts' opinions. In recent trading, Microsoft was up 57 cents, or 2%, to $25.42. Microsoft beat the Street's profit expectations in its just-completed quarter by a penny a share. But the company's sales, which came in at $9.74 billion, fell short of analysts' revenue estimates by about $40 million.