Is Texas Instruments'(NYSE: TXN) miss your loss? When the semiconductor giant posts soft third-quarter results and gives an even bleaker fourth-quarter outlook, one has to consider the domino effect on other industries.

While operating profits of $139 million reversed last year's loss for the period, the company's bottom line still fell short, despite its 4% revenue growth sequentially to $2.25 billion. And that's not just TI's business. In many ways, it's the entire tech sector talking.

See, few companies are as important as TI in gauging the health of the economic recovery. From personal-computer equipment to its role as the leading cell phone chip maker, leading indicators come out in droves when the company steps up to the podium. In short, when this bellwether rings, people listen.

Investors in Nokia(NYSE: NOK) and other handset makers might take heart that TI's wireless business didn't buckle late into the quarter. That's the real worry for others, here: TI started the quarter strongly, but closed in poor fashion. That's important since it's now expecting a 10% sequential decline in revenue for the current quarter.

While the company's third-quarter strength in analog chips and digital signal processors, along the way to producing improvement in free cash flow, was initially comforting, that growth was undone last month. With orders slowing, even an expected uptick in its wireless division in the fourth quarter won't help.

The stock got hammered at the open today, opening 22% lower at $13.40, and with good reason. TI is taking steps back at a time when the economy is supposed to be inching forward. Will it bounce back? The company's sector is cyclical, so, by definition it will go through its ups and downs. But will it be sooner rather than later? Probably, but check back in three months to see what lies deep in the heart of Texas.