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A 'healthy' Steve Jobs expected to take the stage tomorrow


Wall Street will look for signs Tuesday that Apple can maintain its strong sales growth amid a weakening consumer market, but will also pay close attention to the physical appearance of chief executive Steve Jobs.

In a note to clients on Monday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said he's confident the Apple co-founder will be on hand to personally take the wraps of the company's new line of iPod digital media players and other products, which should reassure shareholders and, in turn, boost Apple shares.

"While some investors are concerned that Jobs will not deliver the keynote, we have reason to believe he will," Munster said. "Therefore, we believe his health has improved since the June event, which would be a positive for the stock."

Concerns over Jobs' health have lingered since his gaunt appearance during Apple's June developers conference. Although it was later revealed that Jobs was suffering from a treatable nutrition problem and not a reoccurrence of his cancer, the matter was again thrust before the public when the Bloomberg wire service inadvertently published his obituary two weeks ago.

Jobs' health aside, investors will also be looking for the Cupertino-based Apple to provide an update on sales of its iPhone 3G, which sold 1 million units in the first three days after its launch on July 11th.

Shares of the company have trade down nearly 20 points in the past few days due to a broader market retreat and uncertainty on the part of investors as to the itinerary for Tuesday's "Let's Rock" event. Many are hoping for Mac-related announcements, such as a new line of notebooks, which may not make the cut, according to Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross.

"Right now Apple stock is kind of caught between concerns about strength in the consumer market and questions about how quickly they will be refreshing products and what they will announce tomorrow," Cross told the Associated Press. "It is kind of a buy on the rumor sell on the news kind of stock. Apple often sells off ahead of their announcements."

Like Cross, Piper Jaffray's Munster sees redesigned Mac notebooks in the short term, but used his research note Monday to sideline those expectations for the time being, saying it now "appears unlikely that they will be announced at the event tomorrow."

Munster had previously expected Apple to use its gathering Tuesday to introduce both Mac and iPod products. However, a timeline published by AppleInsider outlining some of the company's future hardware announcements suggested that new Mac offerings — including MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and iMacs — would follow the introduction of iPods by several weeks and months.