Bill Gates Tumbles To World's 2nd Richest Man, Apple Slips 3%

In a bit of a surprise announcement today, the London Times released their annual Richest Punters In The World list and long time favorite Bill Gates is no longer occupying the penthouse suite. It seems that the main inheritor of the Walmart empire has toppled the Geek Made Good. According to The London Times:

The richest man in the world is said to be Robson Walton, American head of the Wal-Mart supermarket chain. With family assets estimated at £45.3 billion, he topples the previous leader, Microsoftis Bill Gates, who is second with £37.5 billion.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison came in at third, while fellow Microsoft cofounders Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer come in at 6th and 15th respectively.

Speaking of Oracle, the enterprise software giant was downgraded today by Lehman Brothers analyst Neil Herman. Oracle is in their fiscal 4th quarter, and Mr. Hermanis concern is that slowing international sales are going to hurt the company. The Lehman Brothersi rating slips from a Strong Buy to a Buy. According to a CBS Marketwatch article:

"Although itis still early in the quarter, we worry that what is typically a seasonally strong quarter for Oracle could prove to be unusually weak given the tough U.S. macroeconomic environment and potentially weakening conditions in international markets," Herman wrote in a research note. In particular, he believes Oracle had planned on closing a number of "very large" transactions in the third quarter that in the end didnit happen and may not happen in the fourth quarter either, or may get downsized.

This had a dampening effect on tech stocks and helped lead both the Dow and the Nasdaq lower. Intelis rating was also reduced by Merrill Lynch from a Neutral Accumulate to a true Neutral and concerns for the entire chip sector raised their heads for what seems the 17,451st time in the last 3 months. Add to these two downgrades was another round of profit taking from last weekis outstanding gains. Together, it added up to a day of losses for the major indexes. Volume was on the light side, and analysts seem mixed on whether todayis trading indicates a plunge back into Bear territory, or the normal kinds pauses seen after any steep increase in the markets.

Apple veteran Steve Perlman, the founder of WebTV has officially launched Rearden Steel Technologies. The company is focusing on the area of consumer entertainment technologies and is dedicated to proving simpler solutions for this lucrative market. Rearden Steel was formed some 15 months ago, but officially debuted with an announcement of major first round funding from a flotilla of big name tech industry companies and venture capitalists. Reuters has a good piece about todayis events if you are looking for more information. The name Rearden Steel will be familiar to Objectivists and Ayn Rand fans the world over, as it was the name of the company belonging to one of the protagonists in her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. It should not be mistaken for the Rearden Technology (also founded by an Objectivist) that merged with NuSpectra to form NuSpectra Multimedia in May of 2000. That company produced products for the Mac market.

Apple announced the official release of QuickTime 5 and QuickTime Streaming Server 3. QuickTime 5 was officially unveiled with the release of Mac OS X on March 24th, but Apple has now released the software for all Mac users. The new version of QuickTime includes enhanced performance, new features, and interface tweaks. Apple also announced a renewed commitment with Akamai for the bandwidth provider to continue to handle QuickTime TV, QuickTime Streaming, and Apple software download bandwidth.

AAPL kicked off the day in negative territory and stayed there throughout the trading session. The stock traded in moderately strong volume and closed near the dayis lows. Apple traded in a range of 24 - 25 today.

Apple closed at 24.25, off by 0.79 (-3.15%), on strong volume of 9,665,900 shares trading hands.

The Nasdaq closed at 2059.32, down 104.09 (-4.81%), on volume of 1,845,895,000 shares trading hands.

The Dow closed at 10532.23, down 47.62 (-0.45%), on volume of 1,016,285,000 shares trading hands.

The S&P 500 closed at 1224.36, down 18.62 (-1.50%).

Akamai closed at 9.14, a loss of 1.07 (-10.48%), on volume of 3,612,600 shares trading hands. Apple is a large shareholder of Akamai.

Adobe announced it has optimized Photoshop for the Pentium IV. They have not yet released a Mac OS X version of the app, but to be fair, the Pentium IV has been out much longer. In a bit of irony, Pacific Crest downgraded the stock today from a Buy to a Market Perform. ADBE closed at 42.98, a loss of 2.98 (-6.48%), on light volume of 3,052,500 shares trading hands.

IBM closed at 112.00, a loss of 2.83 (-2.46%), on light volume of 8,509,900 shares trading hands.

Motorola closed at 15.39, a loss of 0.62 (-3.87%), on light volume of 9,723,500 shares trading hands.

Earthlink will be announcing their results tomorrow. ELNK closed at 10.90, up 0.15 (+1.40%), on light volume of 1,060,000 shares trading hands.

Gateway closed at 18.04, down 0.12 (-0.66%), on volume of 1,822,600 shares trading hands.

Dell closed at 29.35, a loss of 0.77 (-2.56%), on light volume of 27,272,800 shares trading hands.

Intel closed at 30.32, a loss of 2.11 (-6.51%), on volume of 58,319,900 shares trading hands.

Microsoft closed at 68.25, down 0.75 (-1.09%), on strong volume of 45,931,300 shares trading hands.

For full quotes on all the companies mentioned in this article, we have assembled this set of quotes at Yahoo! for your reference. For other stories regarding Appleis stock activity, visit our updated Apple Stock Watch Special Report. You can also check out our Apple Financial Boards, a new moderated forum for Apple Investors and people who are interested in Appleis financial dealings.