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Don't look now, but


(GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Report

is on a roll.

Shares in the Mountain View, Calif.-based company are up 9% this month. That compares with flat June performances at rivals





(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report


The Google rally, which last week boosted the Internet search giant's shares to an above-$400 close for the first time since May 10, comes as Google continues to grab search-market share from its struggling peers.

Google accounted for 44% of 7.4 billion searches that were conducted in May, according to comScore Networks. Google's share is up 6.6 percentage points from a year earlier and 1 point from April.

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Yahoo! remained second with 27.9%, while Microsoft's MSN was third with 12.9%, the market researcher says. Both Yahoo! and MSN showed declines from a year earlier and were little changed from the previous month.

If Google may have lost its Midas touch -- the stock is still down 2% for the year and 15% off its all-time high as investors puzzle over recent efforts like an online spreadsheet -- it remains a darling of Wall Street. Moreover, Google's modest 2006 drop compares favorably with the 13% drop in Microsoft and the 20% decline at Yahoo!.

That's the case largely because of the continued strong demand for search, which Forrester Research estimates will hit $11.7 billion in the U.S. by 2010, up 170% from 2004.

Google isn't leaving its top spot to chance, either. The company recently announced deals with


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to distribute its toolbar, which allows people to do searches without having to go to a Web site. Search engines are pushing their toolbars because people use them for convenience.

Google's spring thaw

Google's rivals are trying mightily to catch up. Microsoft has vowed to spend as much as $2 billion to improve its search business, a move that some shareholders have questioned. Yahoo! is banking that improvements to its search advertising technology will help improve its position in the market.

A Merrill Lynch analyst even conjectured Friday that the best way for Microsoft to play catch-up with Google would be to

buy Yahoo!.