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Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple (AAPL), is taking a six-month medical leave to recuperate, the company said Wednesday.
And just when we thought the prolonged Jobs health drama was settled. Last week, Jobs said
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tocks/archive/2009/01/05/apple-ceo-admits-health-problem.aspx" target="_blank" mce_href="">he was getting treatment for a hormone deficiency that was blocking key proteins from his body. But those health issues are more complex than thought, he said in an e-mail to employees Wednesday.
The news will undoubtedly rattle investors who have been on edge about Jobs's health for months. Stock index futures dropped after the announcement, and I expect a lot of turmoil in the market Thursday. After-hours trading of Apple shares was halted Wednesday.
The news also raises big questions about what Apple isn't sharing with investors and employees. The company has bungled the Jobs health issue from the get-go, and investors remain skittish because Apple's secrecy and misleading statements give no confidence in its management. 
One analyst, Brian Marshall of AmTech Research, thinks Jobs will step down as CEO this year but remain an adviser to the company. That could cut $10 to $15 from the stock price, he told the AP.
There are serious questions about Apple's future, not the least of which is the shape of the product pipeline. Apple's chief operating officer, Tim Cook, will take over for Jobs during the medical absence. But can Cook and other executives move the company forward, or is Apple headed to the sidelines for the next six months?
No CEO is more important to his company than Jobs. The company needs to do whatever it can this week to reassure investors and customers that it will remain an industry leader for the next six months, even without Jobs at the helm.
Related reading:
Apple CEO admits health problem
Apple losing its shine? Oh, please
Is it fair to analyze Steve Jobs's appearance?
Apple can't escape health drama
Steve Jobs's demise greatly exaggerated
Apple CEO blames hedges for health drama
In these volatile times, you can make money from daily ups and downs if you play them the right way. Here's a tool that makes it easier.
Have a credit card you haven't used in the last year or so? It might be canceled.
Numerous credit card companies are cutting costs by closing accounts due to inactivity, and they're doing it without warning.
Can this ding your credit score? The simple answer is: Yep.
"This is their legal right, but it can also negatively affect your credit score," Jonathan at My Money Blog reports.
Great. That's all you need right now, with more lenders
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Here's what Jonathan suggests you do (but first read his explanation of how your credit score is calculated, as well as this MSN Money story, which details new changes to the FICO credit score):

  • Review your credit card information. If you think you may have accounts you've lost track of, a free credit report from will show which accounts are still open.

  • Rank them. Jonathan writes that "credit cards with high limits and long histories are the best. Newer credit cards with low limits are least important" to your credit score.

  • Use the cards you want to keep. We don't suggest you run to the mall. Use the cards to pay regular bills or to buy gas -- and pay off what you owe each month.

Jonathan suggests you may be better off canceling the cards you don't want to keep, heading the credit card companies off at the pass. He says it may look better to lenders who pull your credit reports to read "closed by consumer" rather than "closed by creditor."
If an account you want to keep has been closed, Jason at Frugal Dad says you can call and ask that it be reopened.
Related reading:
New threats to credit scores
Credit card cutbacks hit consumers hard
Feds ban ‘unfair' credit card rules
New Citi rates: Should you opt out?
TradingMarkets contributing writer Keith O'Toole describes the long term fallacy of trading Forex with too little knowledge, and discusses ways traders can broaden their sources of trading information for maximum benefit.
The big question you need to probe when a money manager is having a really rough patch is whether it's more than a one-time event. Here's why I kept a manager and am glad I did.

The news continues to be apocalyptic for retailers as newfound consumer frugality leaves many with no choice but bankruptcy.
According to the Commerce Department, retail sa
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les fell for the sixth consecutive month in December. Excluding autos, sales were down 3.1% month-over-month and 6.7% year-over-year. The fall was more than twice the consensus estimate. Excluding autos and gasoline, the drop was a slightly more respectable 1.5%.
Philippa Dunne of the Liscio Report notes that December's results are the worst since 1947 (mirroring last week's similarly horrible employment data). John Williams of Shadow Government Statistics knows window dressing when he sees it: "Horrendously negative numbers would have been even worse but for the muting effects of downward revisions to prior-period reporting."
With weak revenue, pinched profitability, and swollen inventories, many retailers simply cannot bear the pressure any longer. Clothing chain Gottschalks (GOTT) has filed for bankruptcy protection with plans to restructure. Privately held Goody's, which was desperately fighting for survival after a Chapter 11 filing back in June, has decided to call it quits and liquidate all of its 282 stores. A total of 8,200 people will likely lose their jobs as the 50-year-old retailer closes its doors forever.
Things could have been a lot worse. Of the $9.4 billion cumulative sales drop between November and December, more than half was due to the rapid fall in retail gas prices. Breaking the results down by category, building materials and garden equipment was hit the hardest (as you would expect), with sales down nearly 3%. Clothing sales fell 2.5%. Electronics sales were down 1%.
So where do we go from here? In the near-term, there is no question that losses from inventory liquidation will continue. The Commerce Department reported that business inventories in November, though down a slightly from October, have swelled 3.3% compared to last year. With sales falling off a cliff, the inventories/sales ratio has spiked.

With a 1.58 reading, retailers have the most inventory stock relative to sales at the moment. Before companies in this sector can recover, this ratio must start heading down. It will be a fight for survival as mall anchors, specialty stores, and discount shops use hard discounts to attract a dwindling supply of consumer dollars. In other words, profitability isn't coming back anytime soon.
Contrarian investors should continue to look for well capitalized companies that can go to market with a strong value message and snatch market share from fallen competitors. See my previous post for a few ideas. Those looking for short ideas should check out this piece on which retailers are likely to enter bankruptcy next. Bon-Ton Stores (BONT) looks especially vulnerable.  
Disclosure: The author does not own or control shares in any of the companies mentioned.
Anthony Mirhaydari is a contributor to the Strategic Advantage investment newsletter. He can be contacted at [email protected]. Feel free to comment below.
Related reading:
Macy's turns out the lights
Holiday 2008: The kiss of death for retailers
JC Penney boss gets stock bonus; workers stay up late
A year to remember: 6,100 stores closed
You may be on the verge of becoming a major victim of identity theft if small charges you can't account for -- often under a dollar -- appear on your credit card.
Blogger Andrea luckily noticed some strange charges when she reviewed a rarely used credit card account online. She described how she thwarted identity thieve
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s in a post at Fools and Sages.
Andrea explained that the crooks may have been testing the waters -- if the small charge goes through, they'll go on a major spending spree. Sometimes, she said, thieves accumulate a lot of loot by making small charges on thousands of cards.
(She said this should not to be confused with legitimate services that make a small charge -- and then refund it -- when you sign up.)
In Andrea's case, she happened to check the account to review reward points. "Imagine my surprise when two charges showed up. Neither was huge. I think one was around $20 and one was $10," she said. (In fact, one was for a green-tea supplement that was actually delivered to her house.)
Andrea called the merchants to report the problem and have the money returned. She also reported the theft to the credit card company. "Had I not caught it pretty much the same day that it happened, within a week there would have been charges probably in the thousands of dollars range ...," she wrote. (Consumers in such cases are responsible for only the first $50, if that. The royal pain is straightening out the mess and repairing any damage to your credit.)
How can you prevent this? You probably can't, she said. But you can limit the potential damage. Sign up for online access to your credit card accounts and monitor them once a week. Make sure your computer connection is secure and that the computer's firewall and other security are up-to-date.
Related reading:
Tough times are ripe for ID theft
Will new rules stem identity theft?
Identity protection: Worth paying for?
Should you freeze your credit report?
The market's a mess, but this corner of the investing world offers superlative returns. And you can keep the bonds' extra risk in check by investing through funds.
I'm exiting my position in the yen as the US market rallies. But cash remains a fine safety net for investors.
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