Seagate Technologies ( STX), the big disk-drive maker, posted a steep drop in bottom-line results for its fiscal fourth quarter and gave such a tentatively optimistic outlook for the year ahead it was hard to tell if the company was, in truth, optimistic.

Seagate's chief executive said in an after-market press release that the company has seen "signs that the storage markets are improving," but the rest of the report was filled with qualifications.

The company posted a loss in the second quarter of $81 million, or 16 cents a share, down from a profit of $160 million, or 33 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Analysts were looking for a loss of 10 cents a share.

But Seagate said that results for the latest quarter included 22-cents-a-share worth of amortization and depreciation -- to account for acquisition costs and restructuring charges, respectively. Stripping out that number would give Seagate an adjusted bottom line that's in the black by 6 cents a share.

Revenue, meanwhile, fell to $2.4 billion from $2.9 billion a year ago.

Looking ahead, Seagate projected revenue for the upcoming first quarter of $2.4 billion to $2.6 billion, above analysts' consensus targets of about $2.1 billion.

But the company cautioned, "The ongoing uncertainty in global economic conditions makes it difficult to predict product demand and other related matters, which makes it more likely that Seagate's actual results could differ materially from current expectations."

In after-hours trading, Seagate shares were moving at $11, down 20 cents from their regular session close.

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