Updated from 5:22 p.m. EDT

Apple Computer

(AAPL) - Get Report

posted third-quarter earnings and sales that were in line with the company's warning last month, but the PC maker disappointed investors anew with its outlook for the final fiscal quarter of the year.

The company earned $32 million, or 9 cents a share, in the quarter, down from $61 million, or 17 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. The consensus estimate of analysts polled by First Call had come down to 9 cents a share for the third quarter after Apple forecast a profit of 8 cents to 10 cents a share for the period.

Revenue for the quarter fell 3% to $1.43 billion, also matching the top line guidance the company

provided in June. Apple posted a gross margin of 27.4% in the third quarter, down from 29.4% a year ago. The company said it shipped 808,000 Macintosh computers during the quarter, 2% below the year-ago level.

Apple expects revenue in the fourth quarter to be basically flat with the third quarter, and the company said it would probably record a "slight profit" before any nonrecurring items. Analysts are looking for revenue of $1.52 billion and earnings of 14 cents a share.

Shares of Apple were falling 7.3% to $16.55 in Instinet trading after the close. The stock ended regular action at $17.86.

An Apple executive told


after the quarterly report was issued that the company could be facing a net loss in the fourth quarter after factoring in a charge for recent layoffs and a possible writedown of certain investments. The company also said profit margins would probably fall in the fourth quarter because of pricing pressure, especially in Europe.