It's amazing how a company's management and Mr. Market can look at the exact same data and arrive at opposite conclusions.

That's what happened to chip giant Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN) last night. The company reported a fine fourth quarter, beating expectations with non-GAAP earnings of $0.64 per share on $3.53 billion in sales. Then the company delivered another pleasant surprise by guiding the next quarter above Street projections.

But the devil's in the details. CEO Rich Templeton said that this was the end of a "short and shallow downturn" that gave the company a chance to replenish depleted inventories. In his view, Texas Instruments is now correctly positioned to deliver the products its customers need.

Regardless, the stock fell nearly 4% in after-hours trading when the report hit the wires. You see, the other way to look at that inventory correction is that the incoming order flow is thinning out drastically and TI might have run out of demand for its products. With only $3.1 billion in new orders, the all-important book-to-bill ratio landed at just 0.88, far below the 1.0 watermark where you'd have a sustainable growth model going.

Investors are interpreting the slow orders as TI's personal problem: chief rivals Analog Devices (NYSE: ADI), Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM), and Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM) all held their ground in the off hours, or even gained some ground in the case of Qualcomm.

So who should you believe -- Templeton or skeptical investors? I'm inclined to give TI the benefit of the doubt this time. After all, the semiconductor industry has indeed seen more demand than manufacturers could handle in recent quarters, and I can't blame TI for wanting to restock the pantry. That helps the company turn around orders quicker, leading to happier customers and perhaps more repeat orders in the future.

I'd still like to see orders matching or beating the revenue line again, though. Without that, TI loses its growth luster and becomes just another steady but boring dividend payer.

Add Texas Instruments to your watchlist to keep track of the order trends and everything else.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Fool owns shares of Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.