“Several analysts rushed out overnight updates after Apple’s surprise announcement Tuesday that Steve Jobs won’t be delivering his usual Macworld keynote next month,” Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports for Fortune.

But Yair Reiner at Oppenheimer & Co. did something we’ve never seen before,” Elmer-DeWitt reports. “Not only did he downgrade Apple (AAPL) to ‘perform,’ or neutral, but he withheld his 12 – 18 month price target for the stock — replacing it with a big NA — until he gets some questions answered.”

“‘Six months have passed since Jobs appeared at the Apple Developers Conferences looking drawn and unwell,’ Reiner wrote in a note to clients entitled ‘One Scare Too Many,’” Elmer-DeWitt reports. Reiner wrote, “It’s past time for Apple to either disclose the state of his health or elaborate a viable plan for eventually transferring power. Until such time, we can no longer continue to recommend Apple as a long-term investment.’”

Elmer-DeWitt reports, “Reiner isn’t the only one unnerved by the Jobs news. Investors sent Apple shares down nearly 7%, to $88.95 a share, in midday trading Wednesday.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take:

By SteveJack

Let’s face it: the way things are today, short of Jobs retiring, or God forbid, dropping dead, nothing is going to change the pattern of Steve Jobs health scares, regardless of whether they’re real, imagined, or invented manipulations intended to affect the price of Apple stock.

Jobs could walk on water this afternoon and some people would voice “concern” that he only accomplished it because he’s lost so much weight that he’s about to ascend into heaven.

There’s only so much Apple shareholders can take. An extremely well-positioned, successful company having its share price driven down artificially whenever some short seller desires to cry wolf, er… “gaunt” is not something serious, or even casual, investors welcome. Those who are charged with keeping order (SEC) in the markets are obviously incompetent, AWOL, or both. Perhaps, Jim Cramer and many others (see below for one example) are right in calling loudly for reinstatement of the uptick rule?

The chairman of the SEC [Christopher Cox] serves at the appointment of the president and has betrayed the public’s trust. If I were President today, I would fire him… Mismanagement and greed became the operating standard while regulators were asleep at the switch. The regulators were asleep, my friends, they were not working for you. [The SEC has allowed abusive short-selling, to turn] our markets into a casino.Senator John McCain, September 18, 2008

So, the headline asks the ultimate question: In this current climate, with stock-price-affecting health “concerns,” real or not, that can only be alleviated via retirement or death, and in the absence of the uptick rule, has Steve Jobs become too much of a liability for Apple shareholders? With his “health” sitting there as ammunition to be used whenever the shorts desire to fire off a few rounds, can Steve Jobs remain as Apple CEO without the uptick rule in place?

We get email here. Some AAPL shareholders are not happy with what they consider to be obvious and uncontrolled manipulation.

In an attempt to achieve utter clarity, here’s the Either/Or statement: Either Steve Jobs has to go or the uptick rule has to return. Without one or the other, Apple shareholders are at the mercy of forces that have absolutely nothing to do with the company’s current and future performance. AAPL stock simply cannot be recommended, if its performance has little or nothing to do with the company’s actual results. Cancel or Allow?

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.