Apple is pulling out of the Macworld trade show, the company announced Tuesday, and CEO Steve Jobs will not be giving his annual keynote.

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Apple is pulling out of the Macworld trade show, the company announced Tuesday, and CEO Steve Jobs will not be giving his annual keynote.

After next month’s Macworld event, the iPod maker will no longer participate in the confab that was designed solely to showcase products from Apple and its partners. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, will give the keynote speech in Jobs’ place.

Representatives for Apple and the Macworld trade show did not immediately return calls seeking comment. But the surprise announcement follows rumors about Jobs’ health. At a conference in June, Jobs appeared gaunt, sparking questions about whether he was suffering lingering effects from his bout with pancreatic cancer four years ago.

Jobs, who returned as CEO of Apple in 1997, gave the keynote speech at the previous 11 Macworlds, using the gathering of Apple fans to introduce products such as the iPhone and MacBook Air. A no-show by Apple’s CEO may mean the company has no major new products to talk about or that Jobs is unwell, said Jim Grossman, an analyst at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

“The knee-jerk response from Apple watchers is that there’s nothing worth Steve being there for,” said Grossman, whose firm owns Apple shares. “Then there’s the conspiracy theories that there are political problems between Apple and the people who hold the conference, or that Steve isn’t feeling up to it. I would prefer them to be more forthright in their strategy, so as an investor I don’t have to worry about which it is.”

“It’s totally unexpected,” said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. “It’s insignificant that they’re backing out of Macworld, but it’s significant that Steve Jobs isn’t giving the final keynote.”

Apple shares dropped $2.55, about 2.7 percent, to $92.88 in after-hours trading, after gaining 68 cents to end the regular session at $95.43.

Jobs told members of Apple’s board in July that he is cancer-free and was dealing with nutritional problems after his cancer surgery, The New York Times reported at the time, citing people close to Jobs. The company has declined to comment on Jobs’ health, saying it is a private matter.

“I’m more concerned about him not doing the keynote than this being the last year at Macworld,” said Chuck Jones, an analyst with Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management in San Francisco, which owns Apple’s shares. “Him not being there is a concern.”

Jobs, who shows up in jeans and black turtlenecks and dominates Apple’s events, has increasingly turned over the stage to his lieutenants.

In October, when Apple unveiled new versions of the MacBook notebooks, he shared the podium with Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook, considered the No. 2 executive at Apple, and chief product designer Jonathan Ive.

“You’d think he would want to do the last show for posterity,” said Rob Enderle, president of the research firm Enderle Group. “The fact it isn’t him suggests a problem of some kind.”

Trade shows are no longer as important as they once were for communicating with customers, the company argued in a news release, noting that in recent years Apple has scaled back its presence at other trade shows, such as the National Association of Broadcasters and Macworld Tokyo.

With its retail stores, iTunes software and its online site, Apple is able to reach 100 million people, the company said.

Before 2006, Macworld was a semiannual event, held in January in San Francisco and in the summer on the East Coast.

But Apple ceased participating in the East Coast version in 2003, after show organizers moved it to Boston from New York.

Although Apple didn’t cite the broader economic climate, its decision to pull out of Macworld comes amid a slumping economy and reports that sales of Apple’s computers have slowed.

In tough economic times, companies frequently scale back on their participation in trade shows. Earlier this decade, Comdex, the formerly giant computer exposition, shut down.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which has essentially taken the place of Comdex and often vies with Macworld for attention, expects to have 7 to 8 percent less exhibition space this year, show organizers say.

Macworld and CES both take place in the first weeks of January. In recent years, Macworld has frequently overshadowed CES as the media and analysts have speculated about what Jobs would announce — or chewed it over afterward.

Information from Bloomberg News is included in this report.