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Steve Jobs illness rumors return, Apple stock falls

December 30, 2008 |  3:06 pm

Steve_jobs_kbzt3incAnother day, another Steve-Jobs-is-sick rumor to drive down Apple's stock price.

Gizmodo, the well-respected gadget blog, reported today that a source who has been reliable in the past said Jobs' health was "rapidly declining" and that the Apple chief executive's health troubles were the real reason why he wouldn't give the keynote address at the Macworld Conference & Expo next Tuesday.

The Gizmodo report, though hedged by the blog as unconfirmed, reversed Apple's stock gain on the day (shares had been trading up but then fell before closing at $86.29, down 32 cents. Tom Petruno at the Money & Co. blog notes that day traders may have seen opportunity in the renewed concern about the health of Apple's high-profile CEO, who fought off pancreatic cancer a few years ago and has appeared gaunt recently.

It makes sense that Jobs' health is an issue for Apple shareholders. But that also means there's an incentive for traders to take advantage of the situation, by spreading rumors, or playing them. (Note, though, that this is not a heavily "shorted" stock; the number of shorted shares was just 21 million in mid-December, of 890 million shares outstanding.)

Apple told Bloomberg News: "If ever Steve or the board of directors decide that Steve isn’t able to do his job, I’m sure they’ll let you know." CNBC's Jim Goldman called the Gizmodo report "flimsy at best" and said his sources inside Apple had insisted that Jobs was just fine. "When Apple's got something material to report, I trust that it will," Goldman wrote. "Meantime, unsourced garbage nuking its shares is just that."

-- Chris Gaither

Photo: Apple CEO Steve Jobs in October. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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