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shares tumbled as low as $23 after the company reported third-quarter earnings that beat analysts' estimates by a penny.

The Boston-based producer of semiconductor testing equipment reported earnings of $153.5 million, or 84 cents a share, compared with $62.7 million, or 35 cents a share, a year ago. According to a

First Call/Thomson Financial

survey, 19 analysts expected the company to earn 83 cents a share.

Despite the increase in third-quarter profits, and sales of $848 million, compared with $497 million a year ago, Teradyne lowered its expectations for the fourth quarter during a conference call Tuesday morning.

Merrill Lynch cut its rating on the company to accumulate from buy and reduced 2000 revenue estimates, citing a shift toward lower margin product testing.