LTW, AP

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Tech bellwether Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) topped Wall Street expectations for profits in its most recent quarter by a penny but fell slightly short of analysts’ revenue expectations.

Cisco, which employs some 4,000 people in RTP, reported quarterly sales ending July 31 at $10.8 billion. Analysts had expected $10.86 billion.

In extended trading after the release of the results, Cisco shares fell $1.87, or 7.9 percent, to $21.86. That came on top of regular-session losses of 58 cents to close at $23.73.

The networking giant’s profits hit 43 cents per share minus one-time and other expenses.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a 42-cent profit.

"We’re seeing a large number of mixed signals," Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers said about the overall economy. "We think the words ‘unusual uncertainty’ are an accurate description of what’s occurring."

Cisco’s results are a bellwether not just because of its broad customer base, but also because its quarters start and end a month after most companies. Its latest quarter ended July 31, providing a window into a month for which other companies have not reported.

Revenue shortfalls at other companies have sent stocks falling over the past month. Other stocks fell along with Cisco’s in extended trading Wednesday, and the report was likely to touch off more selling across the market on Thursday.

Chambers said he saw a weak spot hitting in the second half of June, extending into July. That coincided with a falling stock market and fallout from the debt crisis in southern Europe. But the weakness appeared to pass quickly – July ended on a very strong note, Chambers said.

Earlier Wednesday, the Commerce Department said U.S. exports for June were down 1.3 percent. Telecommunications equipment was one of the decliners, along with chips, another product that’s sensitive to economic cycles. The weak exports could be an indication that U.S. economic growth for the April-June period will turn out to be lower than early estimates at 2.4 percent.

As an example of "mixed signals," Chambers said many of his customers are expecting U.S. economic growth of only 2 percent in the second half of the year, yet are seeing steadily improving results in their own businesses.

Cisco said both net income and revenue bounced back from last year’s recessionary levels. Still, analysts were expecting even stronger results after a couple of quarters of Cisco exceeding its own expectations.

Cisco said it earned $1.9 billion, or 33 cents per share, in the fiscal fourth quarter that ended July 31. That’s up 79 percent from $1.1 billion, or 19 cents per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 27 percent to $10.8 billion, just under analysts’ forecasts of $10.9 billion. The company had projected revenue between $10.7 billion and $10.9 billion. Revenue in the quarter last year was $8.5 billion.

Chambers said he expects revenue in the current quarter to rise 18 percent to 20 percent from last year, which works out to $10.65 billion to $10.83 billion. Analysts were expecting $10.95 billion, on average.

"This was yet another very strong quarter with a number of record financial results for Cisco, closing the fiscal year in a tremendous position of strength—a compelling financial model, a well-tuned innovation engine and solid execution on our growth strategy," Chambers added in a statement.

"Whether the global economy continues to show mixed signals or not—the strength of our financial model and profit generation serves us well,” he added.

“As we to continue to successfully grow our business and share of IT investments, our focus is squarely on helping our customers accelerate productivity and growth. We are very confident in our strategy, and will continue to aggressively move into new areas where the network is becoming the platform, and where our customers want us to invest and innovate."

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