Apple shares down sharply in early trading

In first day of trading since Jobs announced medical leave, investors rush to sell

Shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) plunged on Wall Street's opening trading bell Tuesday, one day after co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs announced he was taking an indefinite leave of absence to focus on his health. Virtually as soon as the market opened at 9:30 a.m., nearly 2.5 million Apple shares were sold, driving the price down to 326, or 6.45 percent below Friday's closing price of 348.48. The stock market was closed Monday for the annual Martin Luther King holiday. (Also see: While Jobs focuses on his health, Apple board must focus on its responsibility) Shares recovered somewhat later in the morning as the trading volume lightened, with the price climbing back to 335.25, still down 13.23, or 3.8 percent, from Friday. But the recovery has been uneven, indicating that Apple's stock may have trouble gaining back its opening losses, at least for the rest of the day. Jobs sent an email to Apple employees early Monday informing them that the company's board of directors had granted him a medical leave of absence so he could focus on his health. Jobs said while chief operating officer Tim Cook would be responsible for "all of Apple's day to day operations," he would "continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company." This is the second medical leave taken by the 55-year-old Jobs in the past two years. On Jan. 14, 2009, Jobs notified Apple employees that he was taking a six-month medical leave of absence to focus on his health. Then, as now, Cook was tabbed to run the company while Jobs focused on his health. However, unlike the 2009 leave, Jobs on Monday set no specific limit for his time off. Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004, undergoing surgery to successfully remove a tumor.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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