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Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs and Apple’s share price

As I see it, Apple’s crack public relations team stage-managed the news last week of Steve Jobs’ liver transplant pretty well on its own, somehow making it appear in the 
Wall Street Journal
after the markets had closed for the weekend and in the middle of what was probably the company’s biggest product release of the year.

By the time Monday rolled around and traders could react to the fact that what Jobs had initially described as a hormone imbalance was actually end stage liver disease, Apple was able to soften the blow with the news that it had just sold 1 million new iPhones.

The stock took a 3.9% hit — dropping from 139.48 to 134.01 in the space of two days. But by then Jobs had been spotted back on Apple’s Cupertino campus walking on his own — without cane or wheelchair — and his surgical team had declared that he was “recovering well” with an “excellent prognosis.”

But there’s nothing to help you forget the illness of one celebrity like the passing of an ever bigger one, and when Michael Jackson died on Thursday, all bets were off. The flood of searches on Jackson’s name just before 3 p.m. PDT (6 p.m. EDT) was so abrupt and intense that at first Google thought it was under attack.

Meanwhile, interest in Steve Jobs, as gauged by Google Insights, flatlined, and pressure on Apple’s shares lifted. Whoever was shorting Apple (AAPL), it seems, had moved on to better things.

The stock closed Friday at 142.44, higher by 2.52 points than it opened on Monday.

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Michael Jackson photo: Rusty Kennedy/Associated Press; Steve Jobs photo: Getty Images