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Ticker Shock: JPMorgan, ConAgra Looking Up; Steve Jobs Stepping Back


Thursday's top stories and stocks with potential to move.


My oldest daughter's birthday is coming up and my wife and I finally broke down and got her a Nintendo DS - she's going to be thrilled. Have you seen this thing? It makes the Atari that I was glued to for a good 3 years of my life look prehistoric. I feel old!

By the way, about the cell-phone yapper on my bus? Quiet as a librarian last night. I guess our verbal dressing-down worked.

Asian stocks got thumped overnight. The Hang Seng was off north of 3% while the Nikkei was off nearly 5%. European stocks, however, were only slightly in the red earlier this morning. Here in the US we're currently trading lower.

Here's what has my eyes and ears this morning:

Apple Inc. (AAPL):
Obviously the big news today revolves around Steve Jobs, his health, and yesterday's letter to employees. Here are the first 2 paragraphs of that letter:


I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June."

I obviously feel for him and his family and wish him the absolute best. At the same time, I continue to believe that Apple is larger than Steve Jobs, and the show will go on. That said, some may get scared off and head for the exits on this news. (FYI - it appears as though shares of Apple will open lower this morning.)

Finally, I sense that Tim Cook, Apple's COO -- who will apparently fill in for Jobs on some of the day-to-day stuff in his absence -- is a capable person. We'll see if the Street gives him a fair shake.

Click here to read some of my previous comments regarding Jobs and his health condition.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM):
The well-known financial services firm was out with its fourth-quarter numbers this morning.

It put up $0.07 a share, which was north of the break-even estimate I'm seeing. However, I don't think this is anything to get excited about since I got neither overwhelmingly positive near-term vibes from the release, nor the sense that we're likely to see lots of bright, sunny days ahead.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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