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Apple’s shares fell fractionally in extended hours before trading was halted on the news that co-founder Steve Jobs had died of cancer today at the age of 56.

AAPL closed the regular session at $378.25, up 1.54 percent on the day. It was off 0.27 percent to $377.22 in the post-market when trading on the stock was halted.

CEO Tim Cook, who took the reins of the company from Jobs just six weeks ago, said: Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

Cook had just announced Apple’s latest version of the iPhone yesterday, his first major event as chief executive. The release was met with mixed reviews.

Longtime followers of the company from Wall Street to Silicon Valley have questioned whether Cook–or practically anyone else–could live up to the standards and expectations created by his visionary predecessor.

Speculation about Jobs’ health intensified in December 2008 when he unexpectedly withdrew from his usual keynote address at Macworld scheduled for the following month. Apple’s shares fell on several occasions around that time, and questions were eventually raised about the company’s fiduciary responsibility to inform investors about his status.

When Jobs disclosed that he had pancreatic cancer on Jan. 14, 2009, Apple’s stock plunged as much as 10 percent in after-hours trading. But when he passed the mantle to Cook on Aug. 24, the market’s reaction was muted.

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