A blowout first quarter has brought Microsoft Corp. back into contention in the race for the world’s most-valuable listed company.

The software behemoth is less than US$80 billion away from dethroning Apple Inc. for the first time since May 2020, based on a 2.8 per cent gain in U.S. premarket trading. If the gains hold in regular trading hours, Microsoft will have a market value of US$2.39 trillion compared with US$2.47 trillion for Apple. 

The stock was boosted after Microsoft reported estimate-topping results for an 11th straight quarter. Several analysts raised their price targets, saying the earnings were very strong across the board.

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“Sustaining 22 per cent revenue growth at a more than US$180 billion run rate provides compelling evidence of solid secular positioning across the portfolio,” Morgan Stanley analyst Keith Weiss wrote in a note.

Microsoft is trading at a 20 per cent premium to the technology-heavy Nasdaq 100 Index, though hasn’t beaten Apple in the market value race since the iPhone maker overtook Saudi Aramco for the top spot in July 2020.

The contest’s next catalyst may be Apple’s fourth-quarter results due Thursday. Analysts have been highlighting the possible impact on the key holiday quarter of reported cuts to iPhone 13 production targets for 2021.