On Monday, semiconductor giant Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN ) gave us a mid-quarter business update, with revised forward guidance and some explanation of the reasons why. The company's outlook is muted, with the tops of the new earnings and revenue ranges barely touching the lower extremes of the old ones.
Texas Instruments says that its customers haven't been putting in the order volumes expected, so it's cutting back production to keep inventory levels from careening out of control. That's a marked change from management's bullish position not two months ago, when it presented original guidance alongside third-quarter results.
The problem could have been worse, if TI relied on its own foundries to produce its chips. As it is, management can simply withhold a production run or two from outsourcing foundries like Chartered Semiconductor (Nasdaq: CHRT ) . It's bad news for those guys, but reduces the fixed-cost load for TI and protects its margins a bit.
This pessimistic update closely follows similarly dour outlooks from National Semiconductor (NYSE: NSM ) , Xilinx (Nasdaq: XLNX ) , and Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM ) -- not to mention negative trends in the global cell phone market, according to Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) , and slower business spending, judging by comments from CDW (Nasdaq: CDWC ) .
"Given the combination of seasonal weakness that typically occurs in first quarter, and also considering that these kinds of corrections typically last more than a single quarter, we don't believe we've bottomed yet," said TI Vice President Ron Slaymaker. "So our expectation is first-quarter revenue will be lower than what we're seeing in the current quarter."
In other words, it looks like National Semi's pessimism set the pace for the semiconductor industry at large, rather than being an isolated issue at that company. Brace yourselves for some stormy seas, chip maker shareholders.
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Fool contributorAnders Bylundholds no position in any of the companies discussed here, though he does own shares in a couple of other semiconductor businesses. You can check outAnders' holdingsif you like, and Foolishdisclosureis always worth a read.