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Apple stock shaken by more rumors about Jobs' health

December 30, 2008 |  2:08 pm

Shares of Apple Inc. were on their way to a gain today, with the rest of the market. Then came yet another report that CEO Steve Jobs was in failing health.

Apple stock sank from about $88 to $84.72 in a matter of minutes shortly before 10 a.m. PST, then recouped about half of the loss to finish at $86.29, down 32 cents for the day.

Stevejobs The new report on Jobs’ status, on the Gizmodo website, cited an anonymous source saying he was in "rapidly declining" health.

The Apple co-founder, who is 53, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003, but has said he was cured with surgery. As The Times reported Dec. 17, however, "Appearances over the summer, in which Jobs looked unusually thin and drawn, renewed questions about his health."

Rumors flared again this month after Apple said Jobs wouldn’t deliver the keynote address at January's Macworld Conference & Expo, the venue the company has used for more than a decade to unveil products.

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 Apple shares was just 21 million in mid-December, of 890 million shares outstanding.)

Apple has consistently declined to comment about Jobs’ medical issues. And it didn’t change its policy today, telling 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."

Apple shares are down 56.4% this year, significantly worse than the 41.5% drop in the Nasdaq composite index.

-- Tom Petruno

Photo: Steve Jobs (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)