) -- So much for just waiting around for Ben Bernanke to enlighten us on Friday.

Wednesday's late headlines included a pair of humdingers. Steve Jobs

resigning as CEO of Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report

is of course the biggest piece of news, but don't discount the

Chicago Mercantile Exchange's

decision to lift margin requirements to trade gold by 27%

. Any traders expecting a lazy day of meandering ahead of the

Federal Reserve

chairman's speech in Jackson Hole, Wy. just had their plans changed.

Now it's hard to call Jobs' resignation a surprise, given his well-known health difficulties and the open-ended leave of absence he's been on since mid-January, but it's something of a shocker nonetheless. Market perception of new CEO Tim Cook is already being put to the test, as Apple shares

dropped 5% in after-hours action

in the wake of the news, and Thursday's chatter will be all about what kind of shave the stock deserves with Jobs stepping out of the picture.

The nervousness is understandable but it's hard to look at the juggernaut that Jobs has built and find too many reasons to sell the stock Thursday. Whether the company continues to execute, whether it continues to be visionary from a design standpoint is up for debate, but it's probably more prudent to keep an eye out for cracks in the armor than to run for the exits. Jobs is moving into the chairman role, and is a big believer in Cook. That should count for something.

As for the CME's move, it's likely to exacerbate selling in gold on Thursday, which should yield some benefit for stocks.

The economic calendar features the usual weekly reads on the employment picture -- initial jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 20 and continuing claims for the week ended Aug. 13. The consensus is for initial claims to come in at 400,000, which would be a slight comedown from 408,000 last week. Continuing claims are seen at 3.7 million. In short, not much improvement.

There's a good chance the data will get spun into a positive either way. A better than expected number would be a welcome relief, while a worse one could be seen as adding to the likelihood that Bernanke & Co. will amp up their aggressiveness.

The earnings calendar is pretty light as well. The a.m. roster includes

Big Lots




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, while

Aruba Networks



Cost Plus



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will arrive after the closing bell.

Pandora Media


also reports its fiscal second-quarter results after the closing bell, and Wall Street is expecting breakeven results on revenue of $60.3 million.

It's been a rough two months or so for the digital streaming music company, which priced its IPO at $16 per share in mid-June and saw its stock close Wednesday at $12.07, down 25%. A surprise profit could provide some momentum but the conference call and outlook will probably weigh more heavily.

And finally,

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Applied Materials, Inc. Report

took a hit in late trades on its weak outlook for the current quarter, so chip stocks may be held back as the semiconductor capital equipment maker said it's seeing softness in its business because of the uncertain economic environment and weakness in solar.


Written by Michael Baron in New York.


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