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MICROSOFT MAY BE GOOD INVESTMENT BET

Q. What are your thoughts on Microsoft Corp.? My investment adviser is always pushing this stock.

A. There are definite reasons why Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates is so rich.Buy shares of Microsoft (around $118 a share, over the counter), the computer software giant, for it's enjoying considerable success with its MS-DOS 5.0 upgraded operating system, said Betty Liter, analyst with Montgomery Securities.

After getting off to a great start thanks to its relationship with IBM, Microsoft's image dimmed a bit in 1990 when that relationship soured. To his credit, Gates is not only surviving but prospering. His company appears set to maintain its momentum.

"Not only is Microsoft's 5.0 popular, but so is its easy-to-use Windows user interface program," explained Liter. "Such proven success required time and energy for research and development, which is why we're confident about continued success."

While its hold on personal computer operating systems is being challenged by an alliance between Apple and IBM, Microsoft is expected to maintain its pre-eminence.

Q. My wife and I are considering investing in Boise Cascade, based on a friend's friendly advice. However, this guy has been wrong in the past. What is your opinion?

A. Beware friends bearing stock tips.

Don't rush into buying shares of Boise Cascade (around $23, NYSE), the paper and wood producer, advised Larry Ross, analyst with PaineWebber Inc.

Paper companies were hurt by recession, and Boise Cascade's losses reflect that. But its situation is worse than most, since it produces products such as newsprint and the newspaper industry is under pressure, Ross said.

It has been selling timberlands in Oregon and shifting production emphasis toward the Southeast.

"I would hold if you're already an investor, but I give Boise Cascade only a `neutral' rating," said Ross. "There are other paper companies that aren't as vulnerable as Boise Cascade and are faring better."

Q. As I am getting ready to make my annual visit to my local H&R Block Inc. office, I am wondering whether this company's stock is a worthy investment.

A. As perverse as the concept may be, taxes are a growing business.

Buy shares of H&R Block Inc. (around $33, NYSE), the famous tax preparation, database and personal services firm, for it has a history of good earnings and solid return, said Robert Hedrick, analyst with Eppler, Guerin & Turner Inc.

Block looks good as a long-term investment, since it doesn't have a major competitor. Block's aggressive advertising campaigns and office locations in well-trafficked areas have paid off in the company's bottom line. Electronic filing revenues grew 77 percent in fiscal 1990 and growth should be substantial this year.

"As more and more tax issues are debated, H&R Block reaps the reward from the lack of clarity in taxes," said Hedrick. "It has name brand recognition in the tax service business, and the competition lags far behind."

Q. I recently found a stock certificate from 1971 for 100 shares of Airlift International Inc. I would like to know if this find has any value, or should I toss it in the fireplace?

A. The fireplace wins.

Airlift International Inc., incorporated in Florida in 1964, filed for bankruptcy in 1981 and its reorganization under Chapter 11 was approved in 1989.

Airlift has no stockholder equity, and your shares, unfortunately, have no value, according to Robert Fisher, vice president of the New York-based R.M. Smythe & Co. stock-search firm. The company's last known address was P.O. Box 522495, Miami, FL 33152.