Apple Inc Chief Executive Steve Jobs returned to the public spotlight for the first time in half a year on Wednesday, helping the company's shares gain nearly 1 percent.

The 54-year-old executive, looking energetic and dressed in his trademark black turtleneck and jeans, took the stage and thanked everyone in the Apple community for their heartfelt support during his absence.

It was Jobs' first appearance at a public event since he returned to work in June following six months of medical leave following a liver transplant.

He is expected to unveil a new line of iPods with digital cameras ahead of the crucial holiday season.

Analysts had expected any appearance by Jobs to give Apple's stock a boost. The shares climbed in the afternoon to $174.47, their highest level since August 28, 2008.

(Reporting by Edwin Chan, editing by Maureen Bavdek, Leslie Gevirtz)