Why is Microsoft's stock price up this week?

Though I'd love to take credit if it were due, I have to say I'm skeptical that Windows 8 rumor from earlier this week is the reason Microsoft stock has been up this week. So what's the real reason?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Though I'd love to take credit if it were due, I have to say I'm skeptical that my single-sourced report about Windows 8 possibly being released to manufacturing in April 2012 is the reason Microsoft stock has been up this week.

It's not as high as it was in January this year, but MSFT's share price has been hanging around the $26 range for the past three days.

What's going on? Speculation has been all over the map. Some think Microsoft is ready to announce a Steve Ballmer succession plan. Others think Microsoft may be poised to spend more of its overseas cash on another acquisition based outside the U.S. And then there are some who think Microsoft may buy RIM -- or at least announce a major partnership a la Nokia with RIM. Or maybe the Softies are poised to buy Netflix?

A couple other folks I've pinged in the past day have some (to my mind) more reasonable guesses, too.

"There was always speculation that the company raised the price itself (through buybacks, etc) right before review time so the strike prices of options or number of shares issued would be more favorable. It is early for that since the price doesn't matter until Sept. 1st. But earnings are approaching and it could be good news leaking out," said one of my better Microsoft contacts, who requested anonymity.

(If you need a reminder what's happening on September 1, that's the date that Microsoft turns on its new employee review and compensation system, via which Microsoft is adjusting its stock-compensation plan, giving some employees more money in their checks.)

There are other theories, too. "Their stock is up because a) oversold b) higher valued names had big runs, and some lingering macro concerns c) so rotation into lowered valued names d) i think your w8 (Windows 8) pull forward comment vs street view for later '12 helped," said Brent Thill, an analyst with UBS.

Microsoft's fiscal year ends on June 30, tomorrow, though the company won't report its FY 2011 earnings until July 21.

And just in case it's unclear, I do not hold any Microsoft stock, as I report on the company and my doing so could easily create a conflict of interest.

Anyone else have any other theories/guesses as to what's going on with Microsoft this week?

Update (June 30): Now we know at least one reason -- or maybe even THE reason -- the stock price was up. CEO Steve Ballmer is boasting that Microsoft's FY 2011 earnings will be around $70 billion, with between $26 billion and $27 billion in profits. That will be up from $62.5 billion in revenue and $24.1 billion in operating income for fiscal 2010.

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