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Engadget sends Apple stock plunging on iPhone rumor

Rumors that iPhone and Leopard were about to be delayed caused a stock market panic until Engadget retracted its post, saying it was based on a fake internal memo.

Millions of people, from hardcore computer geeks to high-finance Wall Street martini drinkers, hang on every word related to Apple. Sometimes, that can have consequences.

A midday plunge in Apple's stock was caused by an Engadget report based on a fake internal memo at Apple.

Engadget posted a story Wednesday morning at 11:49am ET claiming that Apple was about to announce another delay of Leopard, the next version of Mac OS X, as well as a delay for the iPhone, perhaps the most hyped gadget of all time.

"This one doesn't bode well for Mac fans and the iPhone-hopeful: we have it on authority that as of today, the iPhone launch is being pushed back from June to... October (!), and Leopard is again seeing a delay, this time being pushed all the way back to January," Engadget said. Panic ensued. Apple's stock immediately plunged 2.2 percent as investors contemplated another product delay at Apple, following the first Leopard delay as well as the Apple TV delay in February.

But around 20 minutes after the original post, Engadget started to update its story. First, the site said it had heard back from Apple PR that there was no delay. Then the full story started to emerge.

Apparently an internal memo was sent to several Apple employees--and forwarded to Engadget--around 9am CT today saying that Apple issued a press release with the news that the iPhone was now scheduled for October, and Leopard was delayed until January. About an hour and a half after that e-mail went out, a second e-mail was sent--this time officially from Apple--saying the first e-mail was a fake, and that the delivery schedule for the iPhone and Leopard had not changed. Engadget then updated its headline as "False alarm: iPhone delayed until October, Leopard delayed again until January.

Commenters on Engadget and Apple investor boards were not amused. Many of those comments are not printable in this space, but it's safe to say that there's some very unhappy Apple shareholders out there today. Apple's stock recovered as the full story emerged, but was still down slightly in afternoon trading.

Engadget said that the e-mail was forwarded by "a trustworthy source," and definitely sent from within Apple's internal e-mail system. "Presumably Apple is now on the hunt for whomever was able to spoof its internal email system," it said in a later version of the post that used a strikethrough font effect on the text of the original report.

UPDATED: An Apple representative confirmed that there has been no change in the company's schedule for both Leopard and the iPhone. "The communication is a fake and did not come from Apple," the representative said.