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Shares of



soared as much as 11% Tuesday after an analyst raised his rating on the stock to a buy, calling the stock's decline since the firm reported strong fourth-quarter results a buying opportunity.

After trading as high as $7.66 intraday, shares of E.piphany were recently up 62 cents, or 9%, at $7.50. The company is among a handful of smaller customer-relationship-management, or CRM, software companies that have

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grabbed investor interest.

After bouncing above $9 intraday on Feb. 2 following its strong fourth-quarter report in late January, E.piphany's stock subsequently declined 20% amid general weakness in the tech sector. "Our belief is there has been no fundamental change in the business and that the stock correction has created an attractive risk-reward opportunity for investors," Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Nathan Schneiderman wrote in his upgrade Tuesday. (His firm hasn't done any investment banking with E.piphany.)

One point in E.piphany's favor is that the company reported its first profitable quarter in January, a full year earlier than expected. Some investors had cited the lack of profitability as one factor holding them back from investing.

Schneiderman pointed to a handful of other reasons for his upgrade, including: a broader product offering; a growing number of large deals with more than 1,000 users; hefty license revenue growth, averaging 32.5% per quarter last year; tight expense controls; and an upswing in CRM demand and the improving economy.

The only thing investors will may be awaiting is for those new, large-customer deals to go live with E.piphany products, expected this summer, Schneiderman noted in a telephone interview. That will be a critical milestone because then those companies will be able to serve as references to encourage other potential customers to consider E.piphany, he said.

"My view is there is enough there that we can be pretty comfortable good things are coming," Schneiderman concluded.