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Intel, the largest semiconductor manufacturer, disappointed the market on Thursday as it lowered the top end of its expectations for fourth-quarter revenues.

In a mid-quarter update, Intel said it expected sales of between $10.4bn and $10.6bn, narrowing the previous range of $10.2bn to $10.8bn.

Capital spending was forecast to be below the midpoint of previous expectations of $5.9bn, plus or minus $200m. Gross margins were still estimated at 63 per cent, but plus or minus a point rather than two points, and all other expectations remained unchanged, it said.

On Thursday, Intel shares fell 2.9 per cent in after-hours trading to $24.95 on the news.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected Intel to produce on average sales of $10.6bn and earnings of 43 cents for the fourth quarter. A number had predicted in recent days that it would raise revenue expectations.

Andy Bryant, chief financial officer, told an analyst conference call that Intel was suffering from a shortage of the chipsets that accompany its processors and had been forced to turn to third-party manufacturers to fulfil demand.

“We are seeing reasonable expectations for consumption around the world,” he said.

The Silicon Valley company earns most of its revenues from processors for servers, desktop PCs and notebook computers.

Earlier in the day, Qualcomm, a chipmaker focused on the mobile phone industry, had set an optimistic tone: it said in an update that its revenues were expected to be at the high end of the $1.67bn to $1.77bn it had estimated earlier for the quarter ending this month.

Paul Jacobs, chief executive, said this reflected “higher handset ASPs [average selling prices] due primarily to strength in [3G] WCDMA handset shipments in Europe.

“We see several European operators being particularly aggressive this holiday season with their 3G offerings.”

National Semiconductor, the leading provider of power management chips for handheld devices, reported a 21 per cent rise in quarterly revenues year-on-year to $544m and profits of 32 cents per share.

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