NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Cree ( CREE - Get Report) is leading the LED lighting sector down on Wednesday after revealing that an inventory backlog is taking longer to work through than the company expected while at the same time pricing has deteriorated.

The trends forced Cree to revise its previous quarterly top line and gross margin guidance lower.

Cree now expects third-quarter fiscal 2011 revenue of $215 million to $220 million, versus a previous guidance range of $245 million to $265 million. Gross margin guidance was lowered to 43% from 46%.

Cree shares hit a new 52-week low on Wednesday, down 10% and below the $44 mark. Cree's trading volume already had surpassed its average daily volume of 3.4 million shares within an hour of the market open.

The weak market outlook from Cree has been a risk for investors since its last earnings report. Cree first reported the inventory glut during its last quarterly earnings, and at that time analysts covering Cree said timing an inventory work-through isn't a perfect science. There was always the chance that the inventory glut would last longer than Cree predicted. In addition, an inventory glut can put pressure on pricing in the market, as companies move to unload inventory at ever-lower prices.

Cree reported on Wednesday that its LED component business and LED chip business were both facing pricing declines and weaker demand.

Cree remained optimistic in its commentary about the Chinese street lamp market, a key growth driver upon which short-term bullish Cree models have been predicated.

"The LED components business appears to be turning the corner," Chuck Swoboda, Cree CEO, stated in a press release. "Despite the challenges we faced in Q3, distributor sell-through has improved and we target solid growth next quarter."

Investors in the LED space, though, aren't always patient. Cree bears have long maintained that the LED market will rapidly commoditize, and Cree doesn't deserve a premium valuation as an onslaught of low-cost Asian LED supply comes online and as China seeks to keep more of its domestic business, including street lamps, for the rapidly growing ranks of domestic LED players.

While there were bearish headlines on Wednesday morning announcing the "death" of Cree's LED lighting market, short-term gluts in high-growth sectors like LEDs can't necessarily be assumed to represent long-term commoditization of a market. Even Cree bears have maintained that the short-term inventory glut is a separate issue from the longer-term threat to Cree of pricing and margin erosion as the LED market becomes saturated with low-cost vendors narrowing the gap between their LED operations and Cree's existing technology premium.

LED stocks typically trade as a basket on sector sentiment, and the core LED stocks were all down on Wednesday, though losses were not in line with the Cree declines. The LED equipment vendors, Veeco Instruments ( VECO - Get Report) and Aixtron ( AIXG), were down between 3% and 4% on Wednesday. LED sector experts often make the case that the LED equipment vendors should not trade in a basket with Cree as the cycle of equipment buying among LED manufacturers isn't aligned with the sales pressures faced by Cree in the LED component market.

Likewise, Rubicon Technology ( RBCN - Get Report), which produces the sapphire substrate that serves as a core material for LED manufacturing, was down between 3% and 4%, even though its position in the LED supply chain is also distinct.

SemiLEDs ( LEDS - Get Report), a recent Chinese IPO and direct competitor to Cree, which has fallen close to 50% this year, was also down between 3% and 4% Wednesday. SemiLEDs provided a weak earnings report for its last quarter.

-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.


>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Eric Rosenbaum.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to Eric Rosenbaum.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: