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Google Fans Circle Wagons

Analysts bristle at the notion that the stock should ever go down.

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shares bounced back Monday after Wall Street analysts rushed to defend the No. 1 search engine company.

Analysts from Bear Stearns, JP Morgan, CIBC World Markets and WR Hambrecht argued that Friday's 8.5% selloff was unwarranted. They shrugged off concerns that Google will make like



and post a disappointing quarter.

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Google rose $7.42 early Monday to $406.89.

"We view the weakness in Google's stock as a buying opportunity and we advise both short-term and long-term investors to take advantage of the weakness and buy the shares," writes Bear Stearns analyst Robert Peck, who has an outperform rating on the shares. "We continue to believe that Google will report robust fourth quarter results that should likely exceed consensus estimates, which should provide upside for the stock."

Peck, whose firm makes a market in Google shares and has provided non-investment banking services for the Mountain View, Calif.-based company, says Yahoo!'s fourth-quarter results were soft because it is losing market share to Google.

JP Morgan's Imran Khan, who rates Google overweight, told clients that that he is even more confident about Google. He boosted his fourth-quarter revenue forecast by $24 million to $1.35 billion.

Google shares are attractive because of "industry growth trends, improving fundamentals in the international market, and expansion of new product categories such as contextual ad and local search," writes Khan, whose firm has provided investment banking services to Google in the past 12 months.

An exception to the Google love-in is Scott Devitt, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus, who last week cut his rating on the highflying Internet stock to sell. That position, which bucked the overwhelming sentiment on Wall Street, hasn't been popular with some investors.

"We received a decent level of indirect grief from individuals we hold in high regard for stating that we are unsure what Google is worth," writes Devitt in a note to clients.

The debate over Google's valuation isn't going to be resolved even after the company reports earnings on Jan. 31. At its all-time high of $475, Google was up 459% from its August 2004 initial public offering of $85.

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